A 27-year-old woman breaking records as the first African-American obtaining a PhD in Nuclear Engineering

Ciara Sivels, an exceptional 27-year-old woman from Chesapeake, Virginia, has broken new ground by becoming the first African-American woman to be awarded a PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the prestigious University of Michigan in the United States. She began her academic journey at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree, before moving on to the University of Michigan to pursue her groundbreaking PhD.

In an interview with Huffington Post, Ciara Sivels reflected on her high school years, sharing that she initially had a passion for culinary arts. However, it was her teacher who recognized her potential and urged her to consider Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). “I can still recall my teacher telling me, ‘You’re exceptionally bright. You should explore fields beyond culinary’,” Sivels stated.


Sivels added, “That’s how I transitioned into engineering, which ultimately led me to MIT and eventually into the nuclear program.”

While pursuing her studies, Ciara Sivels founded an organization named Women in Nuclear Engineering in Radiological Science. The organization’s main objective is to boost the representation of Black women in STEM fields.

Sivels emphasized that representation and exposure are crucial factors in encouraging more individuals to pursue STEM careers, especially underrepresented groups. “For me, the two most important things are representation and exposure. I believe that my journey would have been much smoother if I had been exposed to certain opportunities earlier. Exposure is still crucial, and representation is equally important because having people who resemble you can lend a hand in lifting you up when you face setbacks,” Sivels explained.

While pursuing her graduate studies at the University of Michigan, Ciara Sivels was among only three black women to complete a PhD degree at the institution.

Upon completion of her PhD program, Ciara Sivels made history as the first African-American woman to graduate from the Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences program at the University of Michigan. The department acknowledged her groundbreaking achievement on their Twitter handle and congratulated her on her accomplishment.

Ciara Sivels was selected as an American Association for the Advancement of Science IF/THEN Ambassador in 2024, joining a group of 125 women who serve as role models for girls in STEM fields. The recognition acknowledges the contributions of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields as part of an outreach initiative to promote the representation of women in STEM fields. This information is sourced from Wikipedia.

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