Trinidad and Tobago born Kalisa Villafana made history last August as the first black female graduate at Florida State University (FSU) to earn a doctoral degree in nuclear physics.
Villafana is thus, only the 96th black woman in the United States with a Ph.D. in physics.
Villafana took several courses during her time at Holy Faith Convent in her home country, where she and other girls were exposed to loads of physics experiments.
“I thought it was interesting. From then on, I said I want to be a physicist. That never changed,” she said.
She would then return to Trinidad and Tobago to work and return to the United States after a year to ensure her childhood dream came to fruition.
She said you have to feel the right energy from the school you attend: “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 ,that’s was what I got from FSU. None of the other schools I visited gave me that energy.”
Aware of the fact that the world of physics is mostly white and male, Villafana hopes her achievement would serve as an inspiration to young black girls.
“I always encourage young women to pursue what they are passionate about and what makes them excited, even if they are a minority in the field,” she said.
She also said: “Hopefully, other young girls are motivated when they see us, even though the field is predominantly white and male,”.