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Monday, July 22, 2024

Young woman breaks record at MIT, emerges first-ever black person to earn PhD in Nuclear Engineering

A young woman named Mareena Robinson has made history as the first black woman to earn a Doctorate degree in Nuclear Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

Mareena Robinson obtained a doctorate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States, an achievement she described as remarkable as it made her feel very thankful for the whole journey that brought her to success.

She said growing up, she never had passion for engineering but her mindset was transformed by her high school mathematics and physics teachers who helped her overcome her fear and realize her potential in engineering-related subjects.

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She further said that she got inspired by their guidance and decided to explore physics during her senior year. Mareena then later enrolled in the Physics department at Florida A&M University, where she received immense support and encouragement.

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Mareena majored in physics at Florida A&M University and bagged her Bachelor of Science degree in the course. She stated that her experience during her undergraduate years led her to discover her interest in nuclear engineering through M.I.T.’s summer research program.

She graduated from the university with a 3.88 over 4.00 cumulative grade point and was a member of the Society of Physics Students, FGLSAMP, Physics Department Tutor, and Undergraduate Researcher at the university’s Center for Plasma Science and Technology (CePAST).

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She got admitted into at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011, where she quickly established herself as an exceptional student, impressing her advisor with her passion, expertise, and commitment to finding solutions for nuclear arms control.


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Mareena said that coming from a historically black college (Florida A&M) to M.I.T. was challenging but she actively engaged with associations and groups for minority students.

She added that she got inspiration from influential figures like Katherine Johnson(The first black woman to work at NASA), whose picture was on her wall serving as a reminder for her to push harder.

At M.I.T., Mareena’s doctoral research focuses on the development of radiation detectors for passive warhead-dismantlement verification. She is a fellow in the university’s  Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s Stockpile Stewardship Graduate Fellowship (SSGF).

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In 2012, she was awarded the NNSA Stockpile Stewardship Graduate Fellowship (SSGF), a four-year fellowship that supported her graduate work in the MIT Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy.

In addition to her doctoral research, She was involved in several activities within the MIT community. She is the president of the MIT Chapter of Global Zero, an organization invested in increasing awareness on the issue of nuclear weapons and international disarmament.

She also works with the MIT NSE Communication Lab, providing technical feedback and peer-review support to the NSE community.

Mareena is also the co-president of the Academy of Courageous Minority Engineers (ACME), a graduate student group that serves to provide a community for minority graduate students at the Institute and is an active member of the Black Graduate Student Association of MIT.

After completing her program at M.I.T., Mareena pursued a fellowship with the National Nuclear Security Administration and then joined the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace where she focused on nuclear security and policy research to contribute to important discussions about nuclear weapons.

Mareena is currently a Senior advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, United States.

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