Press Release

Johns Hopkins APL’s Ciara Sivels Selected as a National STEM Ambassador

Wed, 10/23/2019 - 14:59

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory is proud to announce that Senior Professional Staff member Ciara Sivels was selected as one of the 125 AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) IF/THEN Ambassadors. IF/THEN, a national initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies, seeks to further women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by empowering current innovators and inspiring the next generation of pioneers.

“I am so proud that Ciara Sivels has been chosen as an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador,” said Dave Van Wie, APL Sector Head for Air and Missile Defense. “The essence of APL is our people, and Ciara is an excellent representation of the high caliber of individuals employed here. While she just recently joined us after completing her academic studies, she is already contributing to nationally important activities where she brings unique perspectives and technical capabilities to our work. It is also truly exciting to see her commitment to supporting growth in the STEM fields, where I believe that she will serve as an effective ambassador and inspiring role model.”

The Ambassadors were selected through a rigorous selection process. Candidates were evaluated for overall excellence with a focus on the following:

  • contributions to their STEM-related field, commensurate with their career stage;
  • demonstrated experience and abilities in STEM communication and engagement via media, classroom and public programs; and
  • commitment to inspiring middle-school girls to be the next generation of STEM pioneers.

The IF/THEN Girls Advisory Council, composed of more than 150 10- to 18-year-old girls from around the country, also participated in the Ambassador selection process.

“We firmly believe that IF we support a woman in STEM, THEN she can change the world,” said Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “The goal of IF/THEN is to shift the way our country — and the world — think about women in STEM, and this requires changing the narratives about women STEM professionals and improving their visibility.”

To achieve this goal, AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors will connect with students in person and through various media platforms, including popular YouTube channels and network television shows. The Ambassadors are contemporary role models who represent a diversity of STEM-related professions in the United States, from entertainment, fashion, sports, business and academia.

“AAAS is deeply committed to advancing education and opportunities for girls and women in STEM,” said Margaret Hamburg, chair of the AAAS Board of Directors. “This partnership enables us to reach more deeply into STEM education and help advance STEM careers for women and girls. It will help us to elevate the voices of women working in STEM fields and to inspire the next generation of girls and women in science.”

This selection isn’t the first milestone for Sivels. She was also the first black woman to earn a doctoral degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan in 2018 before joining APL. Before this, she received a B.S. in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s in nuclear engineering, also from Michigan. She is also a member of the National Society of Black Engineers.

Sivels joined APL in fall 2018 and works as a nuclear engineer currently focused on the effects of radiation on materials.

“I am very excited and honored to be a part of this group,” said Sivels, originally from Chesapeake, Virginia. “I think it is a great opportunity to highlight various STEM fields and role models. This role will allow me to participate in STEM outreach on a larger scale and help me gain leadership skills.”

For a complete list of Ambassadors, go to