Dr. Tova N. Williams

Postdoctoral Research Scholar, North Carolina State University

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We live in an age now where we can live the dream that was only a dream for the women that came before us.

What do you do?

I help manage the Textile Protection and Comfort Center (TPACC) chemical analysis lab as well as analyze chemicals such as contaminants in firefighter gear and dyes. I train and mentor students, both graduate and undergraduate.

Why did you choose this field?

Growing up, I had a passion for science, because it fueled my curiosity. I knew after taking my first chemistry course (in high school) that I wanted to be a chemist. My teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Davila, was amazing and taught the subject like a college course. Although it was a challenging course, I took a keen interest in what I was learning and mastered the course. It was not until I started undertaking my undergraduate coursework at North Carolina State University that I knew I wanted to be a polymer and color chemist. I was thrilled that I could couple my passion for chemistry with my love for color and become knowledgeable about color science.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Becoming a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. It is a very prestigious award that I was awarded back in 2015. It provided me three years of funding for my Ph.D. for tuition and fees and a stipend. I applied for the award during the 2014 award year, and although I was not successful then, I used the application reviewers’ feedback and other people’s insight to my leverage. I considered it all and worked even harder at crafting my essays and making my story known, and it paid off.

Why do you love working in STEM?

One of the things I am most known for is asking a lot of questions. I love STEM, particularly my research career, because it affords me the opportunity to get some answers to my questions and know why things work the way they work. I also love working in STEM, because I can be a role model to other women, in particular other African American women. I wake up looking forward to seeing what lies ahead for the day, because no two days are alike. And it’s awesome to see the fruits of your labor when you get promising results.

Best advice for next generation?

Go for it, whatever your heart desires, whatever seems unimaginable or impossible. We live in an age now where we can live the dream that was only a dream for the women that came before us.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

I love watching wartime and mob movies. Pearl Harbor is my favorite movie in the first category, and A Bronx Tale is my favorite movie in the second category.

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