Urban Education: She Just Became The First Black Woman To Earn A PH.D. In Nuclear Physics From FSU
Kalisa Villafana Becomes First Black Woman To Earn A PH.D. In Nuclear Physics From FSU
Kalisa Villafana made history this past weekend as Florida State University’s first Black woman to graduate with a doctorate degree in nuclear physics. The Trinidad and Tobago native received her undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University and came back to the states to pursue her childhood dream.
According to Villafana, she always wanted to be a physicist since she was 12 years old, She attended an all girl Catholic school growing up where she was “exposed to tons of physics experiments.” Her teachers at Holy Faith Convent in Trinidad used the physics experiments to help students understand the principles of matter and energy and how the universe works. “From then on, I said I want to be a physicist [and] that never changed,” said Villafana.
Villafana as an international student, wanted to make sure she entered into a Ph.D. program where she had support and community. She found that at FSU with world renowned physicist, Mark Riley, who she credits with expanding her access and opportunities. Riley introduced her to a network of mentors and resources. He also helped her to attend academic conferences and conduct research across the country during her time at FSU.
Villafana also served as a mentor to other minority students at the University, encouraging them to pursue graduate studies.
“In Trinidad, many people don’t know how to get to the United States and get a Ph.D. that’s paid for by the school. They don’t know how to go from being an international student from the islands to a doctor in the U.S. I want to show them how to get to the next point,” Villafana said in an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat.
Villafana also hopes that her presence in the world of physics which is mostly white and male, will motivate other young Black women to follow in her footsteps.
“I always encourage young women to pursue what they are passionate about and what makes them excited, even if they are a minority in the field,” she told Because of Them We Can. I tell them, “don’t be intimidated and that they bring new and invaluable perspectives.”
Dr. Villafana’s goal is to specialize in cancer research, working as a medical physicist. She now becomes the 96th Black woman in the country with a Ph.D. in physics, adding a new face to what physicists look like. “You may not see a lot of us but we’re there. We’re out there.”
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Urban Education PhD: Kalisa Villafana Becomes First Black Woman To Earn A PH.D. In Nuclear Physics From FSU
Chike Ezegbu6972 Posts
Chike Ezegbu is a blogger with an Information Technology background. He is a prolific writer and is fearless in his approach to dishing out information while maintaining high professionalism. He is regarded as both a lover and a fighter.