Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green is one of fewer than 100 black female physicists in the country, and the recent winner of $1.1 million grant to further develop a technology she’s pioneered that uses laser-activated nanoparticles to treat cancer.
“Usually if there is an invitation to speak at a forum like that, I accept it because I feel like it’s a responsibility,” she said. “There are so few of us (black women in STEM fields) I don’t feel like I have the luxury to say I’m too busy.”
By many measures, Green has been extremely busy. One of fewer than 100 black female physicists in the country, she recently won a $1.1 million grant to further develop her patent-pending technology for using laser-activated nanoparticles to treat cancer.
A tomboy as a child, Green was crowned Homecoming Queen at Alabama A&M University (by a landslide vote), earned her master’s and Ph.D degrees at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and is now is an assistant professor in the physics department at Tuskegee University.
It’s tempting to see Green for all the ways that she is unusual – not the least for winning a large grant at a relatively young age, and for being black and female in a field dominated by white men – but it’s not something she said she thinks about in her day-to-day life.
Green, who lost her parents young, was raised by her aunt and uncle. While still at school, her aunt died from cancer, and three months later her uncle was diagnosed with cancer, too. Green went on to earn her degree in physics at Alabama A&M University, being crowned Homecoming Queen while she was at it, before going on full scholarship to University of Alabama in Birmingham to earn her Masters and Ph.D. There Green would become the first to work out how to deliver nanoparticles into cancer cells exclusively, so that a laser could be used to remove them, and then successfully carry out her treatment on living animals.
As she takes on her growing responsibilities, Green still makes time to speak at schools, Boys & Girls Clubs and other youth events. “Young black girls don’t see those role models (scientists) as often as they see Beyonce or Nicki Minaj,” says Green. “It’s important to know that our brains are capable of more.”