UGA to graduate first black female with physics Ph.D.


When some 7-year-olds read about the sun potentially engulfing the Earth into a red ball and exploding into a supernova, they’re likely to have nightmares.

Then again, not all 7-year-olds are like Whitney Ingram, who was reading her father’s National Geographic at that age.

That interest in the sciences is what’s leading Ingram to become the first black woman to graduate from the University of Georgia with a Ph.D. in physics.

“My love of science at a young age came from arts and crafts books, where you could build small projects,” Ingram told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

That passion stayed with her through college, where she eventually earned her bachelor’s degree in physics.

After some convincing from her mother, Ingram decided to reach out to UGA’s Office of Institutional Research to find out if she would be the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics from the university. UGA sent her an email confirming the historic feat in February.

Black female physicists are a rare breed. There were 138 black women working in physics as of May, according to African American Women in physics, a website that keeps track of the number of black female physicists in America.

“There’s a gray area between those who work as physicists and those who have a Ph.D. degree in physics, or astrophysics,” AAWIP.com’s founder, Jami M. Valentine, said in an email. “This becomes more muddled as university programs become more interdisciplinary.”

There have been 93 African-American women who have received their Ph.D. in physics, Valentine said.

“Getting a Ph.D. is hard, and being a black female adds another emphasis to it,” Ingram said.

Ingram said her interests in the field began at Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, where she was one of three students in Roy Billinghurst’s advanced physics class.

“I liked seeing how his demonstrations in class applied to physics,” Ingram said. “I think when you start to get things to click, it starts to be more fun.”

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.

While working in a national lab would be a dream, Ingram said 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.”



Next Up in Local

Woman shot in Rockdale County home with children inside
Woman shot in Rockdale County home with children inside

A woman was shot during a domestic situation Sunday in Rockdale County, police said. Police units and officers were investigating the shooting on Habersham Way, just south of Conyers, shortly after 11 a.m., Channel 2 Action News reported. A man who was in the home when the woman was shot was taken into police custody, but no names have been released...
Boy with 10-pound tumor on face dies after surgery in Florida
Boy with 10-pound tumor on face dies after surgery in Florida

A 14-year-old boy who recently underwent surgery to remove a 10-pound tumor from his face has died, according to news reports. Emanuel Zayas developed the benign tumor while suffering from polyostotic fibrous dysplasia, a genetic disorder in which fibrous tissue begins to replace bone in the body. “Our condolences and prayers for Emanuel's family...
Woodstock road reduced to single lane for repairs
Woodstock road reduced to single lane for repairs

Neese Road in Woodstock has been reduced to one lane during the daytime working hours for approximately one week as Atlanta Gas Light makes necessary repairs along the street, city officials announced. The closure will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will affect Neese from Stations Drive to Edinburgh Lane. Motorists should plan accordingly and expect...
Florida man dead after diving in underwater caves
Florida man dead after diving in underwater caves

A 50-year-old Florida man is dead after cave diving in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park this weekend, officials said. Davin Brannon, 53, of Dover, was diving in the Eagle’s Nest cave around noon Saturday when Hernando County Sheriff officials were called about a diver in distress. By the time crews arrived at the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management...
Pope Francis jokes with cloistered nuns in Peru
Pope Francis jokes with cloistered nuns in Peru

Pope Francis drew appreciative laughter Sunday when he addressed cloistered nuns in a Peruvian church, Reuters reported. The nuns were given special permission to leave their convents to see the pontiff speak in Lima. Francis spoke to the 500 nuns, known as “contemplatives” because they rarely venture away from their convents, on his...
More Stories