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Jamaica’s Charlyne Smith Makes University of Florida History

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Jamaica’s Charlyne Smith has made history at the University of Florida by becoming the first Black woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering.

Smith was born and raised in St. Catherine, Jamaica and is an alumnus of Spanish Town-based St. Catherine High School.

She pursued her degree on a scholarship from the Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland, where she graduated in 2017 with a degree in chemistry and mathematics. The following year she was awarded a coveted National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Charlyne Smith said her grandfather convinced her to use intellect.

“Growing up in St. Catherine, Jamaica, we had limited resources – water, power, shelter. I could have chosen to study any of those, but I was most interested in energy,” she told MSE. “I grew up with electricity issues, and I want future generations of children to grow up there without knowing what that is like. I originally wanted to study solar energy, but I found that the technological advances were slow in solar. I started investigating nuclear engineering and discovered the field had a lot of potential for improving energy production more immediately.”

Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness congratulated Smith on her major achievement.

“Congratulations to our very own Charlyne Smith, the first black woman to earn a PhD in nuclear engineering from the university of Florida,” he wrote. “Charlyne, who grew up in St Catherine and is a former student of my alma mater, the St Catherine High School, graduated with her doctorate from the University of Florida last month.”

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