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Oluwami Dosunmu-Ogunbi Becomes First Black Woman to Earn Doctorate Degree in Robotics at University of Michigan

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May 15, 2024

She’s a pioneer in the field!

Oluwami Dosunmu-Ogunbi has etched her name in history, standing as the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Robotics from the prestigious University of Michigan, Afrotech reports. This is not just a personal triumph but a significant stride for diversity and representation in the STEM fields. During the commencement ceremony, Dosunmu-Ogunbi had an opportunity to address the Class of 2024 and speak candidly about her journey to this historic milestone.

Unlike other engineers, Dosunmu-Ogunbi didn’t necessarily dream of a career in robotics as a child. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she knew that her career choices were limited to three options: becoming a lawyer, doctor, or engineer. By process of elimination. Dosunmu-Ogunbi said she naturally chose engineering.

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“I can’t be a doctor because I hate blood. Lawyer is out because I would pass out if I had to ever talk in front of a large crowd of people… So I guess that leaves engineer,” she told her peers during U-M’s commencement ceremony. 

In high school, Dosunmu-Ogunbi set her sights on earning a doctoral degree. She understood the impact she could have in the field and the example she could set for others who looked like her. Dosunmu-Ogunbi went on to excel in her studies while spending time working with other aspiring STEM professionals through organizations like “Girls Who Code.” Her dedication culminated with the conferring of her doctorate degree as Dosunmu-Ogunbi addressed a crowd of more than 70,000 at commencement in one of the largest stadiums in the U.S. 

“If you do not know me right now, that is OK, but I want you to remember me as the University of Michigan’s first Black woman to get a Ph.D. in Robotics. We did it class of 2024. We can officially call ourselves Michigan engineers,” she told attendees. 

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Throughout her doctoral degree, Dosunmu-Ogunbi served as a Robotics outreach ambassador and in various other capacities, earning the U-M Spectrum Center’s Intersectional Advocacy Award and MLK Spirit Award for her work. Now, she will serve as a postdoctoral researcher in U-M Ann Arbor’s Robotics Department, focusing on “controls with applications in bipedal locomotion.” 

“A Michigan Engineer isn’t solely a beacon of scientific technological prowess. Rather, they embody intellectual curiosity, social consciousness, and the ability to craft collaborative solutions for societal challenges. They foster [inclusivity] and innovation, fostering a community dedicated to service for the greater good,” Dosunmu-Ogunbi said in her commencement speech. 

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Her journey doesn’t end here. Dosunmu-Ogunbi’s goal is to eventually become a professor, pushing the boundaries of her robotics research and inspiring the next generation of innovators. Her story is a powerful reminder that anything is possible with dedication and determination. More importantly, she wants to pave the way for a more inclusive future in the STEM sector, a future where everyone, regardless of their background, can thrive and contribute. 

“Oh how far have I ascended! That little girl with big dreams is not so little anymore. She has become a GIANT,” Dosunmu-Ogunbi wrote on LinkedIn

Cover photo: Oluwami Dosunmu-Ogunbi Becomes First Black Woman to Earn Doctorate Degree in Robotics at University of Michigan/Photo Credit: Brenda Ahearn/Michigan Engineering/University of Michigan

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Dr. Ta Juanna Starks
Dr. Ta Juanna Starks
26 days ago

Congratulations, inspiring Black woman! You make me proud! I can’t wait to see the strides in your future!

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