Jackson State University in Mississippi recently held its fall commencement ceremony. Among those receiving degrees were four African American women who all earned Ph.D.s in chemistry.
Nationwide in 2013, 61 African Americans earned a Ph.D. in chemistry so that fact that four African American women earned their doctorate in the field at the mid-year commencement ceremony of just one university is noteworthy.
The chemistry Ph.D. program at Jackson State admitted its first students in 1999 and awarded its first degrees in 2003. Over the past 11 years, 23 African Americans have earned chemistry Ph.D.s, or 2.1 per year. This is the second highest rate for African American Ph.D.s in the field in the United States.
The four women awarded Ph.D.s in chemistry at Jackson State University are Shantelle Hughes, Kristen Lewis, Cassandra McCullum, and Danielle McShan.
Dr. Lewis, who completed her undergraduate degree at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, offered some advice to other Black women seeking graduate degrees in STEM disciplines. “Know your end goal and construct a plan for your graduate studies accordingly so you can make the most of your time,” Dr. Lewis says. “Choose a mentor that will challenge you and work with you to accomplish your goals. Lastly, your most valuable commodity is your time. Make sure you are spending it wisely.”