- Kalisa Villafana has achieved a great feat becoming the first black woman with PhD in nuclear physics from Florida State University
- The nuclear physicist said she had dreamt about the area of specialisation from age 12 and had been exposed to experiments in the field of study
- Villafana says she will encourage other black girls to venture into areas of life that make them satisfied
Kalisa Villafana has become the first black woman to hold a doctoral degree in nuclear physics, a very important science field, from Florida State University (FSU).
A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Villafana, made history as the first black woman to hold the title from the FSU, but the 96th to earn the degree in nuclear physics in the United States.
Nuclear physics, according to science and technology facilities council, "describes how the sun generates the energy we need for life on earth, how all the atoms in your body were made in stars and what happens in stars when they die. Nuclear physics research tries to answer the fundamental questions: where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?"
It is thus seen as a very tough field of study and she feels excited to record that feat as she calls it a "pretty big deal."
Face2Face Africa reveals that Villafana had the dream to become a physicist right from age 12 and she had the opportunity to be exposed to physics experiments as a student of a Catholic school in her home country attended by girls alone.
Speaking about her interest in the field of study, she said: “I thought it was interesting. From then on, I said I want to be a physicist. That never changed.”
She worked briefly in Trinidad and Tobago before heading to the US where she achieved her goal. She said she was supported and encouraged by the institution and those she met there. "None of the other schools I visited gave me that energy.”
After choosing Mark Riley, a world-renowned physicist, to be her adviser, the rest was history for Villafana. Riley chaired the physics department when Villafana first arrived at FSU.
Villafana understands that the field of nuclear physics is dominated by mostly whites and men, but she said her journey to success would serve as an inspiration to young aspiring black girls.
She says she advises young women to pursue their dreams if such makes them excited even if they become the minority in such areas of specialisation.
Villafana, who currently works as an engineer, further hints that she wants to be a specialist in cancer research and work as a medical physicist so as to contribute more to society.
Legit.ng reported how Professor Saritha Beni's commitment to her profession motivated her not to suspend her doctoral studies in education despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.
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