A passion for people and science at HBCUs and MIT

A passion for people and science at HBCUs and MIT

MIT News profile on Thomas Searles

MIT News


When Thomas Searles was assigned a book report in the first grade, he initially had trouble choosing a topic. He really didn’t like fiction books. After a bit of indecision, he chose to write his report on a book about Black astronauts. Though he didn’t realize it at the time, his journey to becoming a physicist at MIT had just begun.

“I looked in the book, and there was Ronald E. McNair, who happens to be an MIT alum, randomly; he got his PhD here,” Searles says. “And it said that he was a laser physicist. So, I said, ‘Well, that's what I'm going to be, because I want to be an astronaut.’”

Searles is now a member of the 2020-21 Martin Luther King (MLK) Visiting Professors and Scholars Program cohort at MIT. Since 1995, the MLK Scholars Program has brought in a total of 67 visiting professors and 21 visiting scholars from across all academic disciplines. Individuals of any underrepresented minority group are eligible to apply, and scholars are selected for their contributions both to their fields and their potential contributions to MIT.

“It's something that was always on my radar as a young Black scientist,” Searles said. “It was something that was on my five- to 10-year plan.”