SQMS Center at Fermilab announces Carolyn B. Parker Fellowship for postdocs

Photo of a young woman in a green button-up dress against a light background.

Carolyn B. Parker
Photo courtesy of Leslie Carolyn Edwards

Fermilab’s Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center, or SQMS, is announcing a new fellowship opportunity for Black and African American postdoctoral scholars this month: the Carolyn B. Parker Fellowship, named for the first African American woman to earn a postgraduate degree in physics. The fellowship is sponsored by the Department of Energy Office of Science.

“We knew we wanted to create a fellowship for postdoctoral students, and when discussing what we wanted from this appointment, Carolyn B. Parker’s name came up,” said Sandra Charles, chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer at Fermilab, who led the effort to obtain permission to use her name for the fellowship. “This fellowship prioritizes the aspirations of Black and African American scholars in STEM research, which aligns with her legacy and her family’s values.”

Born in 1917, Carolyn B. Parker came from a family who placed an extreme value on education — so much so that Parker taught at public schools for a few years while earning two master’s degrees. In 1941, she completed her first master’s degree, which was in mathematics, at the University of Michigan. She then went on to earn her master’s degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while working on the Manhattan Project in Boston. In the early 1950s, she completed her work for a Ph.D. in physics from MIT, but before she could defend her dissertation, she died of leukemia at age 48.

“Our national quantum center, SQMS, is committed to recruiting and standing up a new generation of quantum scientists with particular attention given to diversity,” said SQMS Director Anna Grassellino. “This will be a center-wide fellowship where the Parker fellows will have the privilege to develop hands-on experience at the top quantum testbeds and foundries in the nation, from Fermilab to our academic and industry partners, such as Rigetti Computing, Northwestern, NASA Ames and more.”

The Carolyn B. Parker Fellowship will honor its namesake by continuing her legacy of teaching and education. The fellowship will be open to Black and African American postdocs who have received their degree within the past five years and have a background in physics or engineering. It offers a three-year appointment at SQMS with a possible two-year extension. One applicant will be selected annually. The chosen fellow will conduct research both domestically and internationally with SQMS partners. Their work will also involve writing scientific papers and reports, as well as reporting progress at center meetings. The deadline to apply is May 30. More information on how to apply is available on the fellowship’s website.

“I think my aunt would have been honored to have this fellowship named after her, not because she was one to look for accolades or attention, but because of her work training students,” said Leslie Carolyn Edwards, Parker’s niece. “My family hopes this fellowship also inspires young people of color, especially women of color, to pursue STEM fields. It will be a wonderful continuation of our aunt’s legacy.”

The Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center at Fermilab is supported by the DOE Office of Science.

Fermilab is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit science.energy.gov.