Mareena Snowden: 1st black woman to get nuclear engineering PhD at MIT

Mareena Snowden: 1st black woman to get nuclear engineering PhD at MIT

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

- Her fear of maths and science 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 a MIT summer research programme

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With her latest accomplishment, Mareena Robinson Snowden has inked her name in the history pages as the first black woman to obtain a PhD in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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

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

Her teachers took interest in her and helped broaden her scope and interest beyond her favourite subjects, which included English and history.

Her teachers told her it’s more of a growth situation, that she can develop an aptitude for maths 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.

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

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''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 programme at MIT, Snowden completed a fellowship with the National Nuclear Security Administration.

“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 PhD recipients in the US were African Americans, and fewer than 1% of PhDs were awarded to African American women.

In other stories, 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 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 a 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 not get another job to fend for himself.

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