According to the latest data from the National Science Foundation, 1,902 people earned Ph.D.s in physics at American universities in 2013. Of these, only 358, or 18.8 percent, were women. Of the 1,902 Ph.D. recipients in 2013, only 19, or 1 percent, were Black. A recent analysis of National Science Foundation data found that from 1972 to 2012, only 66 Black women were awarded doctorates in physics.
Thus, it is quite clear that Black women earning Ph.D.s in physics are a rare occurrence. But this spring both Staci R. Brown from Chicago and Patrice Jackson-Edwards from Jacksonville, Florida, earned a Ph.D. in physics from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
Dr. Brown is a graduate of Florida A&M University and earned a master’s degree physics at Rutgers University in New Jersey before returning to Florida A&M for doctoral studies. “It was natural for me to continue and pursue a Ph.D.,” said Dr. Brown. “FAMU provided me with a strong academic foundation in physics and instilled in me the qualities of a true leader.” Her research is focused on using lasers for the detection of explosive devices and isotope-enriched materials.
Dr. Jackson-Edwards also earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at Florida A&M University. Her research involves K-shell, x-ray fluorescence and lead. She is currently seeking an academic position. “I would like to get into academia because of the way I’ve had educators help me,” Dr. Jackson-Edwards said. “I would like to offer that same help to someone else and possibly spark their interests in the fields of science. There’s nothing better than the look on a student’s face when they finally figure something out. For you to be a part of that is very rewarding as an educator.”