Meet The First Black Woman To Earn A PH.D. In Nuclear Engineering From MIT

 Photo via: mareenarobinsonsnowden.com

In 2017, Mareena Robinson Snowden broke the glass ceiling as the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Nuclear Engineering. 

As stated on her personal website, the Miami native graduated from Florida A&M University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Physics. Snowden then went on to attend MIT, where she did her dissertation research on detectors for future nuclear arms control treaties. Considering pioneering NASA mathematician, Katherine Johnson, a great inspiration, Snowden told CNBC Make It:

"I had a picture of Katherine Johnson on my wall right after 'Hidden Figures' came out, because she was a model for me. "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."

Walking with MIT's class of 2018, Snowden shared her incredible academic milestone on social media, writing in an Instagram post on June 9: "No one can tell me God isn't. Grateful is the best word I have to describe how I feel. Grateful for every part of this experience - highs and lows. 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."

First black woman to earn a PhD from MIT in Nuclear Engineering **insert praise break here* . No one can tell me God isn’t. Grateful is the best word I have to describe how I feel. Grateful for every part of this experience - highs and lows. 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. . When they ask where the skilled black female technical minds are, know there are many - @joymariejohnson, @_sai_89, @rhondalenai, @being_niaja, @jtiaphd, @siangoan, April Gillens, @beyoncizzle, Tiera Fletcher, Ciara Sivels, Grey Batie, @tashaleeb, @special_kay868, Staci Brown, Njema Fraizer, @jedidahislerphd, Delonia Wiggins, Jami Valentine Miller and many more - who show up proudly in the fullness of their black womanhood and fight each day for our place in these fields. . I’m grateful to be in this number, and happy to have proved the principle in my own department. 👩🏽‍🎓👩🏾‍🔬⚛️

A post shared by Mareena Robinson Snowden, PhD (@mrobinsonsnowden) on She continued with celebrating other Black women in the STEM field.

She concluded her post by highlighting other Black women in STEM fields, expressing: "When they ask where the skilled Black female technical minds are, know there are many - @joymariejohnson, @_sai_89, @rhondalenai, @being_niaja, @jtiaphd, @siangoan, April Gillens, @beyoncizzle, Tiera Fletcher, Ciara Sivels, Grey Batie, @tashaleeb, @special_kay868, Staci Brown, Njema Fraizer, @jedidahislerphd, Delonia Wiggins, Jami Valentine Miller and many more - who show up proudly in the fullness of their black womanhood and fight each day for our place in these fields. I'm grateful to be in this number, and happy to have proved the principle in my own department." 

Snowden now lives in Washington, D.C. and works on nuclear weapons modernization issues.

Congratulations, Dr. Snowden! We salute you and all the other Black women who are blazing their own trail in STEM. 


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