The First Black Woman to Earn a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at MIT

Last month Alicia Jillian Hardy became the first African-American woman to achieve a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A graduate of a public high school in Philadelphia, Hardy was an exceptional student. She was accepted at 14 different colleges and universities. But in 1995 she chose MIT and planned to major in MIT’s writing program in the humanities. But she quickly became career oriented and switched her major to mechanical engineering. She also was a member of the women’s crew team.

Hardy earned her bachelor’s degree in 2000 and stayed on at MIT for her master’s, where her thesis explored ways to improve the efficiency of large-scale power plants that use methane or hydrogen fuel. Her Ph.D. work was done in collaboration with Ford Motor Company engineers who are working on a new type of internal combustion engine which is far more fuel efficient.

Dr. Hardy is now doing a postdoctoral internship at BMW in Munich. This coming March she will begin a job at General Electric where she will be working on biofuel technology.

Hardy is the third member of her family to earn a doctorate. Her mother has a doctorate in education and her brother holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.