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Kelly Nash

June 24, 2015//

Meet Kelly Nash '09. The UTSA assistant professor of physics is blazing trails as one of only 42 African-American females in history to have earned a doctoral degree in physics, according to the latest statistics from the American Institute of Physics.

I have my obligations to teaching, research, and service, but I think that service should also be outside in the community and not just within the campus environment.

– Kelly Nash

This year, Nash was one of 57 recipients selected to receive a Young Investigator Research Program award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The three-year, $360,000 award will fund her photobiomodulation research. She will use nanomaterials and lasers to stimulate cells to grow or proliferate. The applications could range from stimulating neurons in the brain to helping heal damage cells in burn victims.

Nash's ties to the military run deep. Her grandfather is one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, the first group of African-American military aviators in World War II.

Today, Nash continues in her family's historic footsteps. In 2009, she was one of the first graduates of the fledgling UTSA doctoral program in physics that originated in 2005. With her doctoral degree in hand, Nash joined the UTSA Department of Physics as a faculty member and will soon be seeking a tenured position.

In addition to her research and teaching roles, she is co-organizing and planning the first "Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics" to be held in San Antonio. The first conference was held in California years after she was an undergraduate and about 200 people attended. That event launched simultaneous regional conferences at nine universities. More than 1,200 people are expected to attend the San Antonio conference in January.

UTSA and Southwest Research Institute are partnering to serve as the conference's host site. Nash is a part of a local organizing committee that includes faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students.

"We will have undergraduates leading workshops in various areas in terms of career focus," Nash said. "We will talk about career options in physics outside of academia, gender issues in science and how to negotiate a salary on your first job."

Nash enjoys serving as a role model and believes she is a product of the outreach programs in science she attended as a youth.

"I have my obligations to teaching, research, and service, but I think that service should also be outside in the community and not just within the campus environment," she said.

Nash received her master's degree in applied physics from the University of Michigan and her bachelor's degree in physics from Dillard University, located in New Orleans, her hometown.

Do you know someone at UTSA who is achieving great things? Email us at so we might consider your submission for an upcoming installment of Meet a Roadrunner.

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