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Black History Month: Celebrating Willie Hobbs Moore

As the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics from any American university, Willie Hobbs Moore was a trailblazer in both the national and local Michigan technical community; she received three degrees from the University of Michigan (BSEE '58, MSEE '61, Ph.D. Physics '72), specializing in the secondary chlorides of polyvinyl-chloride polymers for her doctoral studies.

Moore was born on May 23, 1934 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A first-generation college student, Moore entered the University of Michigan in 1954, the same year of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation ruling.  She progressed through Michigan’s undergraduate and graduate electrical engineering programs, ultimately working under noted infrared spectroscopist Dr. Samuel Krimm for her physics doctoral studies. 

From 1972-1977, Moore authored over 30 papers with Dr. Krimm and collaborators; she was published in a myriad of scientific journals, including the Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy, the Journal of Chemical Physics, and the Journal of Applied Physics. Throughout her career, Moore held engineering positions at Bendix Aerospace Systems Division, Barnes Engineering Company, Sensor Dynamics Inc. and the Ford Motor Company, where she rose to an executive position.

Since her passing in 1994, the Willie Hobbs Moore Award has been curated by the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) organization in her honor. Last year, Aerospace Engineering Assistant Professor Dimitra Panagou was a recipient of this award for her technical contributions and outstanding student mentorship.

Article topics: Alumni


About Michigan Engineering: The University of Michigan College of Engineering is one of the top engineering schools in the country. Eight academic departments are ranked in the nation's top 10 -- some twice for different programs. Its research budget is one of the largest of any public university. Its faculty and students are making a difference at the frontiers of fields as diverse as nanotechnology, sustainability, healthcare, national security and robotics. They are involved in spacecraft missions across the solar system, and have developed partnerships with automotive industry leaders to transform transportation. Its entrepreneurial culture encourages faculty and students alike to move their innovations beyond the laboratory and into the real world to benefit society. Its alumni base of more than 75,000 spans the globe.