The Michigan Engineer News Center

Remembering trailblazer Willie Hobbs Moore, first African American woman to receive Ph.D.

This month, we reflect on the trailblazing work of Willie Hobbs Moore, University of Michigan alumna and first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics.| Short Read

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.

Portrait of Kim Johnson


Kimberly Johnson
Communications Manager

Aerospace Engineering

(734) 647-4701

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The outside of the Ford Robotics building

U-Michigan, Ford open world-class robotics complex

The facility will accelerate the future of advanced and more equitable robotics and mobility | Medium Read