Meet Charlyne Smith, The First Black Woman to Complete PhD in Nuclear Engineering from University of Florida



Charlyne Smith, a 27-year-old Jamaican-American lady, has made history at the University of Florida in the United States by becoming the first black person to earn a PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the institution.

Charlyne Smith, now a Senior Nuclear Energy Analyst on the Nuclear Energy Innovation team at the Breakthrough Institute, described her accomplishment as one that will open doors for underserved groups.

“It means more options, more open doors for marginalized groups, including Black women and men, to create and innovate in the nuclear energy space to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, including climate change,” Smith said.

Charlyne Smith was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica, in North America. In 2012, she relocated to the United States to pursue a career in science and technology.

Charlyne Smith moved to the United States to study at Coppin State University in Baltimore, where she graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Mathematics.

Charlyne Smith discovered her interest in Nuclear Engineering after meeting nuclear scientist Dr Nickie Peters at a Coppin State University (CSU) alumni event, according to black enterprise. She believed that studying Nuclear Engineering could help bring immediate change to countries in need.


She then went on to the University of Florida, where she became the university’s first black woman to earn a PhD.

Smith intends to assist in the displacement of fossil fuel energy sources in the Caribbean and their replacement with clean energy sources such as nuclear energy.

“In doing so, we not only solve energy instability, especially during extreme weather events, but we’ll also get closer to global carbon neutrality goals,” she explained.

“My strategy is to start with Jamaica because it houses the only nuclear reactor in the Caribbean. Although it is a research reactor, its existence demonstrates experience and technical competence in the nuclear engineering space,” she added.

Charlyne is a co-founder of Empowering Garrison Girls (EGGs), a non-profit organization whose mission is to fill the need for a global transformation to reduce gender and economic inequalities by focusing on young girls living in Jamaican garrison communities.

“Early exposure to a wide range of STEM disciplines is essential for solving current and future world problems. I plan to help diversify the engineering disciplines by first developing a summer engineering pilot program for high school students in Jamaica. The hope is that the success of these types of educational programs will help to create a blueprint for designing STEM-based secondary institutions,” she explained.


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