Trailblazing Shamaria Engram has made history not just once but twice! She goes down in the history books at the University of South Florida by achieving the feat of becoming the first Black woman to graduate with a doctorate in Computer Science and Engineering.
Used to being among the minority, she graduated from Strawberry Crest High, a predominantly white high school.
A Tampa Bay Florida native, Engram stood out in the STEM space because of colour, but that lack of representation fueled her even more to change the narrative surrounding racial and gender diversity in computer science and engineering. At HBCU Bethune-Cookman University, she was offered the opportunity to learn alongside students who looked like her, but upon embarking on her doctoral journey at USF, she noticed the underrepresentation yet again as the only Black woman in the program
“You kind of have to put on this face because you don’t want someone to look at you differently. You want them to consider you as smart as everyone else in the room. I went to an HBCU, and at first, it was a culture shock because I went to a predominantly white high school,” Engram told WFLA. “That motivated me to keep on pushing. I can’t be the first one and stop. The PhD is hard and with me being the only Black woman in this department, you don’t have a lot of people to talk to about your research that get you culturally.” She is furthering her career at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and hopes to use her journey to empower other Black women and girls to launch careers in STEM.
Engram credits the community she built with other minority students through organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers with helping her scale through. Three years into her doctoral studies, she learned that she would be the first Black woman to graduate from the program, giving her even more inspiration to keep going.
“I think it makes me work harder to get more people in this field that look like me because it’s definitely uncomfortable at this time,” she said.
Dr. Engram landed a Technical Staff job at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Massachusetts.
She is a proud recipient of the 2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Award