The First Black Woman to be Awarded a Ph.D. in Physics in Colorado

In 2005, the latest year for which data is available, only 10 African Americans earned a Ph.D. in physics. For an African-American woman to win a Ph.D. in physics is a rare phenomenon. In fact, in the entire history of this country, fewer than 60 black women have earned doctorates in physics.

But this summer Marty Baylor will complete her doctorate at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She will be the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics in the state of Colorado.

Baylor, now 30 years old, is a graduate of Kenyon College, a liberal arts institution in Gambier, Ohio. Although she majored in physics, she also studied Chinese. Less than 3 percent of the students at Kenyon are black.

Her research in optical physics deals with unscrambling signals using lasers. As the human brain can focus on a single voice in a room full of talking people, she hopes to develop methods for electronic devices to do the same. Practical applications for this technology could produce breakthroughs in hearing aids, cellular telephones, and electronic intelligence gathering operations.