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Representation in STEM: Smith, Dr. Charlyne

A digital conduit for student-curated content presenting the contributions and challenges faced by underrepresented prominent figures in STEM. Physical banners were placed on display at Baldwin Wallace in spring 2022 with supporting programming scheduled.

Dr. Charlyne Smith

Dr. Charlyne Smith after graduating with her PhD from the University of Florida (2021). 

“I was convinced by my grandfather to use intellect. I want future generations to grow up without knowing what having limited resources is like.” 

Dr. Charlyne Smith was born and raised in St. Catherine, Jamaica. As a child, she was full of ideas and dreamt of becoming a scientist. Her inquisitive mind allowed her to critically theorize about finding solutions to problems she faced. Her passion stemmed from her experiences of being raised in Jamaica. As a girl, she learned that lots of the energy in Jamaica came from fossil fuel resources. Growing up, she experienced insecurity when it came to natural disasters, as well as those around her. They did not have reliable shelter, water, or electricity. In high school, she loved the sciences and advocated for the use of solar energy. This is where her love for engineering blossomed. Smith enjoyed solving problems and presenting her findings at science fairs and ovations. She believed that her tenacity for science came from her mother. Her mother is a social worker, and Smith wanted to emulate the strength her mother conveyed from work in her own life. Her grandfather was another one of her inspirations that pushed for her to use her intelligence to improve Jamaica’s wellbeing.

She graduated from St. Catherine’s High School and made the decision to go to the United States for her higher education. She believed that for her to grow and help people in the way she wanted to, she needed to go to the United States. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Mathematics at Coppin State University located in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated in 2017. Living and studying in the United States revealed to Smith the severity of disparities in Jamaica. Smith began with studying fruit dye-based solar cells in hopes of finding a feasible method towards powering her home country and others in the future. Her research was solar based – but once she met nuclear scientist - Dr. Nickie Peters - her entire life and perspective changed.

She found that nuclear energy was a taboo subject in Jamaica, and she wanted to open the eyes of others in the possibilities and the power of nuclear energy. Smith’s drive to improve power sources and clean water led her to pursuing a graduate degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Florida. In 2018, she was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She believes that nuclear is the obvious immediate solution to many problems Jamaica and other countries face.

The desire to find reliable energy access in Jamaica motivated Smith to ensure that the next generation of Jamaican children will never experience water or electricity insecurity. Her hope is to contribute to nuclear technology in the Caribbean. She currently studies the evolution of nuclear material under radiation and ways to improve these materials. Outside of her science and technology filled life, Smith enjoys the arts. She enjoys acting and dancing in her free time and is a well-rounded individual outside of the nuclear world. Her work has continued to search for alternative methods to provide reliable power to countries like hers.

Contributing BW student:

Manimone Sengvoravong: Neuroscience major, Biology minor, Chemistry minor

External Resources: 

Dr Charlyne Smith | A Jamaican Black Woman Breaking Boundaries | Smile Jamaica - YouTube