- A woman achieved her childhood dream when she graduated with a PhD from the Florida Stare University
- Kalisa Villafana, became the first black woman to earn a doctoral degree in nuclear physics from the university
- She now becomes the 96th Black woman in the US with a PhD in physics
Kalisa Villafana, a Trinidad and Tobago native, made history on Friday August 2, 2019, when she became the first black female graduate to earn a doctoral degree in nuclear physics at the Florida State University (FSU), USA.
She also became the 96th black woman in the country with a PhD in physics when she was hooded during the first of two summer commencement ceremonies, at Florida State University.
Villafana received her undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University and came back to the States to pursue her childhood dream.
She disclosed that she had always wanted to be a physicist since she was 12 years old.
Villafana, attended an all-girl Catholic school growing up where she was exposed to tens and hundreds of physics experiments.
Being an international student, Villafana wanted to make sure she entered into a PhD program where she had support.
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With the help of world renowned physicist, Mark Riley, Villafana had access and opportunities. Riley introduced her to a network of mentors and resources.
Villafana served as a mentor to other minority students at the University, encouraging them to pursue graduate studies.
The world of physics is mostly white and male dominated, something Villafana acknowledges. But she hopes that her presence 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,” she said.
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 PhD in physics, adding a new face to what physicists look like.
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