Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Tamia Grant: Reaching for the Stars at UVI

 Tamia Grant always gravitated toward science and mathematics in her studies and focused on advanced Placement and honors studies while attending high school in St. Croix. Originally from St. Kitts and Nevis, the double major (chemistry and physics) always dreamed of studying biology and becoming an obstetrician and never imagined having a different set of goals.

“I wanted to be an obstetrician, but in 11th grade after Hurricane Irma, I went into a deep state of depression. I lost motivation to do anything, and it skewed my view on college and my future,” said Grant. “When it came time to apply to colleges and explore future endeavors, I just wasn't motivated.”

Recognizing the challenges her daughter was facing and not wanting her to give up on her dream, Grant’s mother delivered an ultimatum: she could either stay at home with her in St. Croix and find a job or go to college. Grant chose to attend UVI, after applying as part of her high school’s requirement, and ultimately embarked on a journey that would lead to profound growth, exploration, and a new sense of community.

In her freshman year, Grant immersed herself in pre-med courses after choosing biology as her field of study. During her first semester at UVI, she took a chemistry class that made a deep impression and opened a path for a new direction in her life.

“I started as a biology major. I was doing pre-med, but I found a love of chemistry when I took my first chemistry class at UVI, so I switched my major,” said Grant.

Grant started to dive into her experiences at UVI, joining the National Society of Black Physicists on campus.

“I got involved with the physics program because I was in the National Society of Black Physicists on campus, and we were doing a community outreach session where we went up to Etelman Observatory and looked at the stars to discuss the physics concepts with various individuals,” Grant recalls. “And I was like, you know what? I want to be a part of things like this. So, I added physics to my degree program.”

While things were progressing positively on the academic front, the end of a significant personal relationship in 2021 left Grant feeling lost and in the throes of depression.

“To distract myself from dwelling on the breakup and on being depressed, I started exploring extracurricular activities for the first time,” she recollects.

Becoming deeply involved in a variety of academic and leadership activities provided fulfillment and the sense of belonging she had been seeking.

Grant’s interest in astronomy stemmed from her fascination with the night sky and shifted towards engineering as a result of her involvement in a research project with NASA.

Grant worked with her mentor, professor of physics and astronomy, Dr. David C. Morris, on a NASA project involving a high-altitude balloon carrying a satellite payload. The project aimed to detect gamma radiation from the Crab Nebula supernova, a massive star that exploded hundreds of years ago and continues to emit X-rays.

Grant defines her time on the project as an extraordinary experience that sparked her interest in design engineering.

“It's been a pretty amazing experience for me,” she said. “I want to shout out the physics department in general for all the opportunities that they gave me. They were a major part of my decision to go into engineering.”

During her time at the University, Grant was elected President of the Student Government Association, served as Miss UVI, joined the National Society of Black Physicists, and was President of the Society of Women Engineers.

Grant is grateful for her experiences at UVI, especially the professors, mentors, and staff around campus such as cafe workers and custodial staff members who helped her to develop a spirit of resilience and purpose, and allowed her to thrive academically, personally, and socially.

“I would not have grown and been as comfortable with myself and as sure about what I want out of life if I did not go to UVI,” she declared.