Ciara Sivels knew she was going to make history, but she really wanted to focus on finishing her Ph.D. program first.
Sivels, a native of Chesapeake, Virginia, is the first black woman to earn a doctoral degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan, the top program in the country.
“It was something that was in the back of my mind as I was going through the program,” Sivels told HuffPost. “So yeah, it was something that I thought about, but I tried not to make it the focus because I didn’t want to add more stress to the rigor of the program.”
Sivels, 27, successfully defended her thesis “Development of an Advanced Radioxenon Detector for Nuclear Explosion Monitoring” in October.
Congratulations to Dr. Ciara Sivels in becoming the first African American female graduate of the NERS PhD program!! pic.twitter.com/EtmDdnFkBK
— U-M NERS (@umichNERS) October 26, 2018
Sivels didn’t always want to pursue nuclear engineering. After high school, she had her sights set not on atoms but on appetites. “I was originally going to go to culinary school. In my junior and senior years, I was in culinary arts,” she said.