Mareena Snowden: Meet the first Black woman to earn Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from MIT

Mareena Snowden: Meet the first Black woman to earn Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from MIT

- Mareena Robinson Snowden has made history as the first Black woman to obtain a PhD in nuclear engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

- Her phobia for STEM subjects nearly derailed her pursuit of engineering and her recent accomplishment

- With help from her teachers, Snowden studied physics and was later introduced to nuclear engineering when she participated in an MIT summer research programme

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With her latest accomplishment, Mareena Robinson Snowden, has inked her name in indelible history pages as the first Black woman to obtain a Ph.D in nuclear engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Snowden, 31, never imagined a career in STEM and definitely not engineering not to talk of making history as a toddler.

The young achiever reveals engineering was not something she had passion for while growing up and recalls her earliest memories of math and science were of nervousness and anxiety and just kind of an overall fear of the subjects.

Eventually, she shook off her phobia of the subjects with help from her high school math and physics teachers.

Her teachers took interest in her and helped broaden her scope and interest beyond her favorite subjects which included English and History.

She recounts her teachers told her it’s more of a growth situation, that she can develop an aptitude for math and science and eventually develop a skill.

While in 12th grade, in Miami where she grew up, Snowden studied physics.

She and her dad were introduced to someone who worked in the physics department at Florida A&M University, CNBC reported.

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At the time, she said, she was considering colleges and decided to visit the campus.

''They treated me like a football player who was getting recruited. They took me to the scholarship office, and they didn’t know anything about me at the time. All they knew was that I was a student who was open to the possibility of majoring in physics.''

Snowden’s journey to becoming the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. at MIT was the culmination of 11 years of post-secondary studies.

Snowden was reportedly introduced to nuclear engineering during her undergraduate years when she participated in MIT’s summer research programme.

After her undergraduate years, she applied to pursue graduate study in eight schools and was accepted by MIT’s nuclear engineering programme.

On June 8, 2018, Snowden became the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the decorated university.

''Grateful for every part of this experience, highs, and lows,'' she wrote on Instagram. ''Every person who supported me and those who didn’t. Grateful for a praying family, a husband who took on this challenge as his own, sisters who reminded me at every stage how powerful I am, friends who inspired me to fight harder. Grateful for the professors who fought for and against me. Every experience on this journey was necessary, and I’m better for it.''

After finishing her program at M.I.T., Snowden completed a fellowship with the National Nuclear Security Administration.

And she’s at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she focuses on nuclear security, including policy research and writing about nuclear weapons.

“It’s exciting as a researcher to work on something that people are thinking about now, something with real-world implications,'' Snowden said.

''I try to understand how policymakers and negotiators think, explore current nuclear challenges, and then try to evolve technical frameworks to meet the world as it is,'' she added.

Snowden’s accomplishment is very important especially because in 2015, just over 2% of bachelor degrees in physics were earned by African-Americans, according to the American Physical Society.

African Americans make up almost 15% of the United States’ population. Despite this, in 2013, around 5% of Ph.D. recipients in the US were African Americans, and fewer than 1% of PhDs were awarded to African American women.

In other stories, reported that after serving some time in prison owing to a 10-year jail sentence, 100-year-old Akolobila has finally been released after an NGO campaigned to have him set free.

Akolobila was first handed a sentence of 10 years to serve at the Kumasi Central Prison after he was arrested by the police for possessing narcotics.

Prior to that untimely and unexpected fate, the 100-year-old man worked as caretaker of a large farm before being laid off due to old age which affected his ability to deliver maximum output. Akolobila lost his livelihood and at that age he could hardly get another job to fend for himself.

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