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Black women are displaying excellence in the realm of academia. According to Spectrum News, Monique Mendes recently made history by becoming the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Rochester.

A native of Jamaica, Mendes moved to the U.S. 12 years ago. The first-generation college student always had a passion for science and as she began to explore the different facets of the industry, she was drawn to neuroscience. Determined to pursue a career in STEM, she enrolled in the biology program at the University of Florida. “I really wanted to dive more into that world and tackle some of these difficult questions,” she told Rochester First in an interview. “I’m really drawn to a challenge and I really loved how complex the brain is and how intricate the brain is. Like there’s specific things that need to work together for proper development, and if proper development does not happen, then there’s issues down in adulthood. So I think a lot of my passion comes from wanting to be challenged and wanting to really dive into that world.”

Mendes was surprised to learn that she made history at the Rochester-based school. “I didn’t know I was the first Black woman, but I’m excited,” she said. “I feel empowered; I really want other students in the Rochester city schools, just around Rochester that are Black, to know that this is possible and that they can pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience.” Her academic journey is not stopping anytime soon. She plans on doing a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University.

News about Mendes’ historic appointment comes after Jasmine Bowers became the first Black person to earn a doctorate in computer science from the University of Florida.


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