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Whitney Ingram makes UGA history as the first black female to graduate with a PhD in physics

December 23, 2016

Ingram will join a group of fewer than 100 black women who have Ph.D.s in physics in the United States

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Photo credit: Dorothy Kozlowski

Ingram, who also attended UGA for her undergraduate degree as well as for graduate school, said she started college as a biomedical engineering major but quickly switched to physics within her first year.

Ingram’s field of interest in physics is nanotechnology. In her research, she designs and builds nanostructures, specifically plasmonic nanostructures, that respond in unique ways to light.

Ingram's historic degree is complemented by her lofty accomplishments, which include a Science Graduate Research Fellowship with the Department of Energy and a fellowship with the Southern Regional Education Board. Ingram was also one of 65 U.S. students selected to attend the annual Nobel Laureate Conference in Lindau, Germany.

In an interview with The Red&Black, UGA's independent newspaper, Ingram said she always suspected she would be the first black female to earn a Ph.D. from UGA in physics. However, it wasn’t until her mom pushed her to make it official that she sent a formal request to the Office of Institutional Research at UGA, which spent a few months researching and verifying that she is indeed the first.

Ingram hopes to continue her work in nanotechnology at a national lab, and eventually teach physics at the high-school or college level. She told The Atlanta Journal and Constitution that she understands the importance of minority visibility in high school and college classrooms and hopes to be an example for future leaders. 

"I'm happy to be the first," she said, "but I don't want to be the last."

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