On June 8, Mareena Robinson Snowden, 30, became the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reports CNBC.
Snowden shared the achievement with a photo following her commencement ceremony in which she detailed how “grateful” she is for the storied experience. “Grateful for every part of this experience — highs and lows,” she wrote. “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.”
Snowden also made a point to recognize other Black women who are fighting to make strides in their respective fields. She told the news publication that one of her role models is Katherine Johnson, a Black mathematician whose calculations as a NASA employee aided in the success of the first U.S. manned spaceflights. Johnson was also the inspiration behind the movie “Hidden Figures.”
“I had a picture of Katherine Johnson on my wall right after ‘Hidden Figures’ came out because she was a model for me,” she said. “People ask me all the time, ‘Who’s your role model?’ and you know, you pick and choose from different places. And it was like now, I have a tangible woman. I have Katherine Johnson, who was a mathematician and a black woman killing it.”
Snowden will begin working at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she will focus on nuclear security. She hopes her story will inspire other students who may be minorities in other fields to pursue their dreams.