Ciara Sivles is a nuclear engineer and an ASTC IF/THEN Ambassador.
Our Meet the Engineer series features the work of IF/THEN Ambassadors in engineering fields. Each profile shares stories, videos, activities, and free downloads, all designed to inspire girls to pursue STEM. The Works Museum is a proud recipient of an IF/THEN Gender Equity Grant.
WHY SHE BECAME AN ENGINEER
Hi, I’m Ciara Sivels, when I was 16, I knew nothing about engineering, let alone MIT, University of Michigan, or PhDs. In fact, I wanted to be a pastry chef. But, then I learned about atoms – they’re so tiny yet create lots of energy. My chemistry teacher opened my eyes to a future in engineering and encouraged me to apply to MIT. At MIT I was unprepared but determined. It was a struggle, but I believed in myself and in my passion. I thought I would go into teaching, but God had another plan. Through a fellowship encouraging minorities in STEM fields, I landed an internship with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which launched my PhD career and ultimately landed me where I am today at JHU Applied Physics Laboratory. This journey certainly did not come easy. I was the only woman of color in nearly every class, and I am proud to be the first black woman to obtain a PhD from the number one program in the country. I was a ‘first’, but I hope you join me in the field of engineering. We together can solve problems and inspire the next generation of female scientists.
HOW SHE ENGINEERS
Dr. Ciara Sivels is a nuclear engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where she works on a variety of projects using radiation detection and modeling. Her past research focused on nuclear explosion monitoring and treaty verification, resulting in 4 first-authored publications as well as numerous research awards, including the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s University Program Review National Laboratory Impact Award.
MORE ABOUT CIARA
Among the many outreach and mentorship programs that she participated in during her time at Michigan, she helped found the Women in NERS (Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences) group, a space for women in the department to commune, share stories, and discuss issues. Ciara obtained her PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan in 2018, becoming the first black woman to do so at Michigan. She also holds a Master’s degree and Bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan and MIT, respectively. She is originally from Chesapeake, VA.