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Ciara Sivels knew she was going to make history, but she really wanted to focus on finishing her Ph.D. program first.

Sivels, a native of Chesapeake, Virginia, is the first black woman to earn a doctoral degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan, the top program in the country.

“It was something that was in the back of my mind as I was going through the program,” Sivels told HuffPost. “So yeah, it was something that I thought about, but I tried not to make it the focus because I didn’t want to add more stress to the rigor of the program.”

Sivels, 27, successfully defended her thesis “Development of an Advanced Radioxenon Detector for Nuclear Explosion Monitoring” in October.