Kalisa Villafana Becomes First Black Woman In Florida State History To Earn A Doctoral Degree In Nuclear Physics

Kalisa Villafana Becomes First Black Woman In Florida State History To Earn A Doctoral Degree In Nuclear Physics

She received her degree on Friday.

Published August 11th

Written by Paul Meara

On Friday (August 9), Kalisa Villafana became Florida State University’s first Black woman graduate to earn a doctoral degree in nuclear physics.

Receiving her undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University, she returned to her native Trinidad and Tobago to work. After a year though, Villafana decided she wanted an advanced degree in order to provide greater career opportunities.

“When it comes to a Ph.D. program you have to feel like you’re going to thrive and the people there want you to succeed,” she told ABC News. “That was what I got from FSU. None of the other schools I visited gave me that energy.”

Aside from her academic achievements, Villafana served as a mentor to minority students with an aim of encouraging them to pursue graduate studies. It’s something she hopes to continue post-graduation.

“I want to show them how to get to the next point,” she said. “In Trinidad, many people don’t know how to get to the United States and get a Ph.D. that’s paid for by the school. They don’t know how to go from being an international student from the islands to a doctor in the U.S.”

Career wise, Villafana has plans to work as a process engineer with Intel Corporation in Arizona. Her ultimate goal is to work as a medical physicist specializing in cancer research.

“Hopefully, [young girls] see that they too can be a physicist,” she said to the news network. “You may not see a lot of us, but we’re there. We’re out there.”

Kalisa Villafana’s recent graduation makes her 96th Black woman in the country with a Ph.D. in physics.

Photo: WFTS

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