Mareena Robinson Snowden has become the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After 11 years of higher education, taking classes such as Electromagnetic Interactions and Nuclear Nonproliferation – she now works at the National Nuclear Security Administration, dealing with incredibly advanced nuclear weaponry and the policy surrounding them.
As a high schooler Snowden, like many others, found math and science to be pretty distastefully and nerve-wracking. But she had wonderful teachers who told her that she didn’t have to hate math and encouraged a budding interest in the subject. During her college search, Snowden visited Florida A&M University, a school that jumped at the chance to diversify their STEM program. A summer opportunity provided introduced her to the field of nuclear engineering and when it came to graduate school she already knew what her path of study would be. She applied and got accepted into MIT and seven years later Snowden received her doctorate.
Snowden credits her huge accomplishment to her family, friends, and faith. Those were the things she says pushed her through all of the struggles that she encountered along the way, including dealing with the foreign nature of being the only black woman in a classroom. Snowden also drew inspiration from Katherine Jackson, a black woman whose mathematical prowess was integral to the first American manned spacecrafts.
Snowden shows her thankfulness to her core supporters in an Instagram post saying, “No one can tell me God isn’t. Grateful is the best word I have to describe how I feel. Grateful for every part of this experience – highs, and lows. Every person who supported me and those who didn’t. Grateful for a praying family, a husband who took on this challenge as his own, sisters who reminded me at every stage how powerful I am, friends who inspired me to fight harder. Grateful for the professors who fought for and against me. Every experience on this journey was necessary, and I’m better for it.”