Tech Time with Andrew Humphrey: Dr. Ciara Sivels is a pioneer in her field

Dr. Ciara Sivels is a trailblazer and the first Black woman to earn a PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan

For Women’s History Month, Local 4 is celebrating the incredible women who are making a name for themselves.

READ: More Women’s History Month coverage

Dr. Ciara Sivels is a true trailblazer who accomplished a groundbreaking achievement earning her doctorate.

She continues to help the world and inspire others.

Sivels is a nuclear engineer and the first Black woman to earn a PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan.

She initially wanted to be a chef until a chemistry teacher noticed her talents in math and science.

She applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was the first in high school’s history to ever be accepted.

She then joined U-M in 2013 for her graduate studies. The university was considered the top nuclear engineering program in the United States.

“It was the best for nuclear at the time, so when I got admitted, I thought ‘Man, another door has opened!’” Sivels recalled.

She attributes much of the motivation to her parents. They told her that others would make assumptions about her due to her race, but emphasized that she shouldn’t let it cloud her judgement with what she planned with her life.

“I would come back and say, ‘Oh, I think this teacher thinks this about me,’” Sivels recalled. “And they were like, ‘OK, and what does that change about your work? Nothing. Continue to do your work. People are going to say what they want to say.’”

Going through school, she realized how few women are in her field too, so she founded the Women in Nuclear Engineering in Radiological Sciences group at U-M.

“All of the outreach work is rooted in this idea that there are communities that are disenfranchised and don’t have the same opportunities as others,” Sivels said. “We’re trying to make that easier.”

Part one of Andrew Humphrey’s story can be seen in the video player above. Part two can be seen below.

Ciara Sivels is the first Black woman to earn a PhD in nuclear engineering at the University of Michigan.

MORE: Tech Time with Andrew Humphrey

About the Authors:

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.