This week’s #WCWinSTEM is Mareena Robinson Snowden, PhD candidate at MIT.
As compiled by Chrystelle Vilfranc
Our #WCWinSTEM is Mareena R. Snowden. She is a Miami native who “thrives in environments where diverse perspectives and skill-sets are valued.” As a strong supporter of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Snowden received her B.S. in physics from the Florida A&M University. Currently, she is pursuing her doctorate in nuclear engineering at MIT, where she focuses on the development of radiation detectors for future nuclear arms control treaties. Can we say #BOSS?
Snowden is a 6th year PhD student in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT. Her area of expertise, which is a very interdisciplinary field, has called for more than understanding physics to develop promising solutions and is critical to monitoring nuclear warheads for future disarmament agreements. Overtime, she has learned that problem solvers in her field must have an appreciation for the intersection of science and policy. There is so much more to nuclear engineering. Snowden explained, “It is political will that binds what we intend to do in reducing our nuclear stockpiles, and science that binds how we actually do it.”
During her doctoral work, she has spent an ample amount of time understanding both the physical and political limitations to detecting warhead-like objectives passively. To do this, she conducts simulations and experiments to help her understand the radiation interactions happening inside of an open-source nuclear warhead design. She infers conclusions about how to use these radiation emissions as a signature of the warhead’s presence.
Snowden believes U.S. nuclear weapons only serve to deter other nations from using nuclear weapons against the U.S. or its allies. The role of nuclear weapons, she explains, is more psychological than defensive. Therefore, Snowden is interested in crafting a world where our global stability is not dependent on our possession of these ultimate weapons. She also believes that the conversation about the role nuclear weapons play in global stability has been stalled and is in need of evolving. She hopes to contribute her perspective and training to a critical examination of current international power structures to help create the global conditions necessary to sustain a stable world without nuclear weapons.
Snowden on Highlighting #WOCinSTEM
As a millennial Black female nuclear engineer, Snowden is very interested in increasing awareness and participation of traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM and in the conversation about our U.S. nuclear stockpile. The potential for transformative dialogue will increase with the inclusion of new and diverse perspectives.
Highlighting #WOCinSTEM in the fullness of their humanity allows us to remove the constraints that label certain perspectives more valuable than others. Discussing the contributions of #WOCinSTEM helps us work against the unfortunate habit of discussing groups as monoliths. Snowden hopes to make herself visible to give voice to the idea that one can pursue an identity as an engineer while being unapologetically in the fullness of her Blackness and womanhood.
“Every day along my journey in science, I decide, and re-decide, not to tuck away aspects of myself in order to excel, and I hope my visible choice bolsters the confidence of the community from which I come. “
Thank you, Mareena R. Snowden for all that you do for the nuclear engineering field! We appreciate all that you bring to #STEM!
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