February 22, 2020
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. Mareena Robinson Snowden. Dr. Robinson Snowden became the first black woman to earn a PhD in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2017.
Mareena Robinson Snowden earned a bachelors degree in physics from Florida A&M University. She then attended graduate school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) majoring in nuclear engineering. While at MIT, Robinson Snowden was awarded the NNSA Stockpile Stewardship Graduate Fellowship (SSGF) in 2012, a four-year fellowship that supported her graduate work in the MIT Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy. Robinson Snowden completed her PhD in nuclear engineering in 2017, becoming the first black woman to earn a PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT.
In 2017-2018, Robinson Snowden served as a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Graduate Fellow (NGFP) in the Office of Major Modernization Programs. This office is responsible for the modernization of warhead systems and ensuring access to the strategic materials used in the U.S. stockpile. After her time at NNSA, Mareena was a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow with the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research focused on nuclear arms control verification, nonproliferation, and modernization. Currently, Dr. Robinson Snowden is a senior engineer in the National Security Analysis Department at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Legacy - Paying it Forward
While in graduate school she worked with an organization called Grad Catalyst that steers underrepresented minorities into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Members of Grad Catalyst visit other institutions to hold seminars on graduate school — from what internships to apply for to how to manage relations with a PhD advisor. She was also co-president of the Academy of Courageous Minority Engineers, a group that serves, in her words, “to provide a community and a safe space to voice goals, grievances, and just feel supported.” After graduation, her story in STEM has been featured in MARVEL Comics, CNBC, BET and other national television, radio and print media. She hopes her accomplishments will inspire other young people to confidently pursue careers in fields in which they might be a minority.