Meet The 63rd Black Woman With A Physics Ph.D. In American History

Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a 32-year-old theoretical astrophysicist. Her academic home is arguably the nation’s most elite physics department, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In one sense, she is among a dying breed. Prescod-Weinstein is a pen-and-paper theorist. “Basically I do calculus all day, on paper,” she told HuffPost. “I’m a little bit of a hold-out. There are things I could be doing by computer that I just like to do by hand.”

But she is also part of a vanguard, a small but growing number of African-American women with doctorates in physics.

Just 83 Black women have received a Ph.D. in physics-related fields in American history, according to a database maintained by physicists Dr. Jami Valentine and Jessica Tucker that was updated last week.

By comparison, the physics programs at MIT and UC Berkeley alone grant nearly as many Ph.D.’s each year. In total, U.S. universities awarded over 1,700 physics Ph.D.’s in 2013. The number of African-American faculty at U.S. physics departments remains similarly low; only two percent are Black, according to a report issued last year by the American Institute of Physics, and half of those faculty members are employed by historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Yet more than a third of all African-American women with physics doctorates earned them in the last 10 years, according to the database. In February, Prescod-Weinstein (citing subsequently-revised figures) posted a celebratory message on Twitter:

In 2010, I became the 69th Black American woman to get a PhD in physics. As of next Weds there will be 78 of us. #BlackWomenAppreciationDay

� Chanda (���) (@IBJIYONGI) February 20, 2015

“How did I feel when I posted that?” she said during a recent interview. “You know, whenever I think about these numbers—and I guess this makes —> Read More