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Meet the first black woman to obtain a PhD in nuclear engineering. From the nation's main program

Ciara Sivels knew that she was going to make history, but she really wanted to focus on finishing her Ph.D. program first.

Sivels, originally from Chesapeake, Virginia, is the first black woman to obtain a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan, the nation's largest program.

"It was something that was on my mind as I went through the program," Sivels told HuffPost. "So yes, it was something I thought about, but I tried not to do the approach because I did not want to add more stress to the rigor of the program."

Sivels, 27, successfully defended his thesis "Development of an Advanced Radioxenon Detector for Monitoring Nuclear Explosions" in October.

Sivels did not always want to devote himself to nuclear engineering. After high school, he had his sights set not on the atoms but on the appetites. "I was originally going to culinary school, and in my first and third years I was in the culinary arts," he said.

She took an AP chemistry class in her senior year of high school, she says, and her teacher encouraged her to pursue a career in STEM. He continued to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he specialized in nuclear science and engineering.

"I remember that the teacher in that class said, 'Oh, you're really smart, you should think about doing something more than culinary,'" Sivels recalled. "So that's how I switched to engineering and finally I ended up at MIT and ended up in the nuclear program. "

The road was not always easy for her.

"Many people helped me, because there were times when I was thinking about leaving the program," he said. There was a point where I thought, well, I was going to go to a different school because It does not work. "

Sivels mentioned his mentors as Dr. Sara Pozzi, who collaborated with the new doctor and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on a new project for the radioxenon detection.

"This project was initiated by Ciara and represents a significant advance in the monitoring of nuclear explosions," Pozzi, Sivels academic advisor for his Ph.D. Thesis, he said. "The College of Engineering of the UM is becoming a more diverse and inclusive environment and the history of Ciara is a wonderful example of what we can achieve."

However, the lack of diverse representation in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics is alarming. Sivels feels there is a lot of work to be done on that front.

"My two great things are representation and exposure," he said. "I feel that my way could have been much easier if I had been exposed to things at a different time, I still feel that exposure is key and representation also helps, because you have people who look like you who can help you get up when you are Failing. "

In a few weeks, Sivels plans to move to Baltimore to work in the applied physics lab at Johns Hopkins University. But ultimately, she wants to pursue a career in academia. "That was my goal, to enter this program, I want to be a teacher," she said.

Sivels is also the founder of Women in Nuclear Engineering in Radiological Sciences, a campus organization in her department that helps connect women in the field. He wants black women who enter the STEM disciplines to know how important it is to "fight for what you want."

"I think that's a very good foundation because it's not going to be easy, especially as a black woman," he said. "It's just not going to be easy, if I did, anyone can do it."

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