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(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — A Trinidad & Tobago-born student has made history at a university in the US, becoming the first woman of African heritage to earn a PhD in physics at the school.
For her accomplishment, 30-year-old Dr Kalisa Villafana successfully defended her thesis and research into nuclear physics at the Florida State University.
Villafana lived in Chaguanas during her early life, living in St Thomas Village and attending the Chaguanas Government Primary School.
But it was while attending Holy Faith Convent, Couva she discovered her love for physics and math. And in Sixth Form, she got the opportunity to attend university in the United States.
Some 10 years later, Villafana has gone down in history as the first black woman to graduate with a PhD from Florida State University.
She was also recently featured by the African American Women in Physics website. In addition to these successes, she is also one of the few black women in the United States with the qualification.
Speaking to Guardian Media during a Skype interview on Tuesday, Villafana said: “There aren’t a lot of women physicists—there aren’t a lot of black physicists…In the US, there aren’t yet 100 African-American women with PhD’s in Physics and I believe now I’m either number 95 or 96.”
“We need that number to rise. Physics is a predominantly white, male field so the diversity is slowly but surely coming in physics.”
She encourages all young girls who may look up to her and have their hearts set on a goal to “do your research and figure out how you’re able to get yourself positioned in this field,” just as she did.
But despite spending lengthy periods studying in the US she always made time to visit her family in Trinidad.
“I definitely miss home all of the time. My family is all in Trinidad so I try to go as often as I can…home is always home.”
Villafana would not be returning to Trinidad & Tobago just yet as she will be moving to Arizona to take up a position at the Intel Corporation.
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