First black mother graduates in US university with PhD in Nuclear Physics

First black mother graduates in US university with PhD in Nuclear Physics

With her latest achievement, Dr. Faridah Mokaya has become the first black female and mother to graduate with PhD in Nuclear Physic from the University of Connecticut, USA.

Dr. Faridah Mokayah has obtained a rare feat as the first black female to graduate with PhD in Nuclear Physics from the University of Connecticut.

Moving from her native Kenya to pursue a masters in Physics, Dr. Fridah Mokaya went on to join the University of Connecticut PhD program as the only black Physics PhD female student in her department.

She feels “coming from nowhere with no connections” worked in her favour

Dr. Fridah Mokaya is also the first of her family to pursue a science course despite a rocky start.

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For a lot of people who attained the accolades in science came easily but for Dr. Mokaya it took dedication and determination.

In high school when it came time to pick her examinable subjects, she missed the cut off mark for Physics by a mere 2% but her father intervened to help steer her to her fate.

Dr. Faridah said, ‘’one thing I will never forget is that in all this, my Dad did not talk much, he just told the teacher that I was his daughter and he knew me and what I can do and he had no doubt that I will excel in physics.’’

And ‘‘this was the turning point,’’ she added.

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She said her Physics teacher Mr. Orinda, saw how distressed she was but knowing her potential, he told the deputy principal that he had allowed Dr. Faridah in the Physics class on condition that she’d perform.

Dr. Faridah worked hard and it paid off after she scored “A” in Physics when she sat for KCSE exam.

She explained that the journey to this point has been challenging because when she was about to graduate from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya for a Bachelor of science degree in Physics, she found herself lower of the list than she had hoped.

‘‘I had never felt so distressed in my life. All the arduous work I had put in, including the late nights for a second class lower?” she said “I was very heart broken,” Dr. Faridah expressed her disappointment.

As fate would have it, she ended up pursuing her master’s degree (M.Sc. Physics) in the United States at the Binghamton University (SUNY). Then moving on to the PhD Program at the University of Connecticut where she conducted research in the field of Experimental Nuclear and Hadronic Physics.

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In the simplest terms, we use the nucleus as a “laboratory” to study fundamental interactions. So why is all this important? Well, it’s because it enables us to understand the fundamental building blocks of nature,” she elaborated.

Not only was she the only black Physics PhD female student in her department, she also had to juggle being a new mother.

“I want everyone to know that anyone can achieve anything you want in life… Challenges along the way should propel you to keep going and not discourage you.”

If I could influence more women to pursue STEM related subjects, then I will be the happiest person,” she concluded.

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