Kalisa Villafana

What made you choose FSU?

I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago and finished my undergraduate degree in Physics at Florida A&M University. I chose to attend Florida State University for graduate school because of its highly ranked Physics Program, the strong nuclear physics group, and the in-house laboratory. It was also important to me to have an abundance of opportunities for hands-on experience. I believe that in the field of physics, training beyond an undergraduate degree is absolutely necessary. 

Describe the importance of your research and work.

My excitement for nuclear physics stems from its far reach; it has so many applications in many industries, such as energy, imaging and diagnostics, material science, and homeland security to name a few. I believe that while pursuing a Ph.D. in any field is important, we are all discovering pieces of the puzzle. My work in understanding nuclear structure and nuclear radiation is part of this puzzle, and at some point will be fundamental in one or more of the industries mentioned.

Describe your career aspirations.

Beyond the Ph.D., I plan to pursue a career in medical physics, using my training in nuclear physics, radiation and accelerator science to help in the fight against cancer. I was recently featured in That’s a Moire, a geeky science valentine video produced by the National High Field Magnetic Laboratory. I use opportunities like this and Math and Physics Fun Day to communicate science to the community.

Some of my accomplishments include presenting my work at national conferences, and receiving many awards and grants, some of which have helped fund my travel to these conferences. I am most proud of being the first person in my family to obtain a Ph.D. and this coming summer I will be the first African American female to obtain a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics from FSU.

What advice do you have for anyone considering graduate school?

My advice to anyone considering graduate school is if you feel like your field needs advanced academic training, or the career aspirations you have require an advanced formal education, then go for it. A graduate degree can open doors for you. It has allowed me to network and meet a lot of people. It has helped shape me into the person I am today.

Kalisa Villafana

Kalisa Villafana

"This summer I will be the first African American female to obtain a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics from FSU."

Degree: Doctoral
Program: Nuclear Physics
Say it in 6: Contributing to advancing society fuels me


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