April Gillens becomes first African American to receive doctorate in environmental engineering and science

HISTORY MADE: April Gillens

HISTORY MADE: April Gillens

APRIL GILLENS made history this month by becoming the first African American to receive a doctorate in Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences from Clemson University.

Earning her Ph.D. took sacrifice, April, who is from a small town just outside of Columbia, said.

There were missed phone calls and family events. But her family understood, she said, and was always there to support her and encourage her to dream bigger and study harder.

She finished her studies at Clemson in June and moved to Washington, D.C., where she is helping safeguard the nation’s nuclear stockpiles as a graduate fellow with the National Nuclear Security Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Energy.

“I’ve always wanted to make a contribution to African-American history,” April said. “This is my opportunity to do that. I feel like I am setting an example for other students of color, other African Americans to obtain this highest degree.”

Environmental Engineering is the branch of engineering concerned with the application of scientific and engineering principles for protection of human populations from the effects of adverse environmental factors; protection of environments, both local and global, from the potentially deleterious effects of natural and human activities; and improvement of environmental quality.

Looking back at her academic career, the newly-crowned Doctor of Philosophy said that she is most proud of continuing on the course that was set before her, even when offered chances to give up.

“There were challenges and obstacles and opposition that I faced,” she said. “But I’m very proud to say that I have persisted throughout this whole time.”


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