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Meet the FSU student who will make history as first black female graduate in nuclear physics

Black Women in Education

Meet the FSU student who will make history as first black female graduate in nuclear physics

By Kara Irby, FSU Communications via

Kalisa Villafana will make history when hooded Friday evening during the first of two summer commencement ceremonies at Florida State University.

Villafana will be FSU’s first black female graduate to earn a doctoral degree in nuclear physics and only the 96th black woman in the country with a Ph.D. in physics.

“It’s overwhelming and a pretty big deal,” she said. “It feels great to be the first at Florida State, and I hope that more young women are encouraged to pursue physics degrees. Diversity and inclusion are necessary. Everyone can contribute different perspectives to various fields.”

At 12, Villafana decided she would be a physicist after conducting science experiments at Holy Faith Convent in her home country of Trinidad and Tobago.

“It was a strict Catholic girls’ school,” she said. “We had a lot of courses, and we were exposed to tons of physics experiments. The teacher would explain that this is how we understand how the universe works. I thought it was interesting. From then on, I said I …

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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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