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Clarice Phelps

The first Black Woman on the periodic table

Clarice Phelps

Topics include:

  • Diversity / Equity / Inclusion

  • STEM (Chemistry, Radiochemistry)

  • Nuclear power

  • Women in the Military

Available for:

  • Keynotes

  • Breakout sessions

  • Panel discussions

  • Podcast/ Radio guest


There is one (yes, one) Black woman in the world who was involved the discovery of an element in the Periodic Table, and that one woman is Clarice Phelps. Born in Minneapolis, raised in Nashville, Clarice Phelps has been knocking down barriers since day one.  As a student at one of the most academically rigorous high schools in Tennessee, she managed to maintain stellar grades while playing volleyball, studying Tae Kwon Do, performing as first chair in violin, and earning her certification as an Open Water Scuba Diver and Certified Snorkel Instructor.

Clarice continued her academic studies at Tennessee State University, where she was an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, the Chemistry club, and several other civic and academic organizations. After graduating, she returned to the water; this time as a member of the world’s finest Navy. While enlisted she earned the Military Excellence Award and became a Nuclear Engineering Laboratory Technician (one of the most competitive and challenging positions in the Navy). After being promoted to supervisor of all the radioactive instruments and dosimetry services, Clarice was Honorably Discharged, and continued her career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Today, Clarice manages industrial use Isotopes for the Isotope & Fuel Cycle Technology Division at Oak Ridge.

Clarice is not only an exceptional scientist, but an award-winning advocate for diversity and improving access to science. Amongst her honors, she was recognized for her contributions to science by the Young Women's Christian Association with their Tribute to Women Award for Science, Technology, and Innovation as well as being listed on the Periodic Table of Younger Chemists by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) for her contributions to science.  Clarice has lent her knowledge and skills to the Project G.R.A.D. summer institutes, participated in city-wide career days, and chaired the signature youth enrichment program A.S.C.E.N.D. for high school-aged girls and boys. She’s already an in-demand public speaker, with regular invitations to TEDx and other high-profile events.

Whilst she was the first Black woman to contribute to the discovery of an element, she certainly doesn’t want to be the last.  Clarice serves on the board of directors for Yo-STEM (Youth Outreach in STEM), a non-profit organization dedicated to exposing students in underserved communities to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

When she isn’t speaking or working with radioactive isotopes, Clarice loves to read, do arts and crafts projects, ride her bicycle, participate in STEM youth outreach, and spend time with her husband and three children.

Why She Is Your Speaker

“Important reminder that credentials don’t equate to destiny”

Erin Crawford via Twitter

“I am a facilitator by profession, and I have studied the art of rhetoric. Clarice understands the use of rhetoric when she speaks, and she definitely has the delivery of a true facilitator. Clarice is smart, relatable, and she knows how to tug on your heart strings. She is an excellent selection choice for speaking engagements.”

Kimberly Swett

Most Requested Talks

Intentional Legacy Building

“The goal is to not only reach for the stars, but to also reach past them.” -Clarice Phelps-

What we do now in this moment in time, not only defines us but it defines the future. What are we doing now to leave a legacy worth remembering for the generations after us? And what will history say of your time here? Clarice discusses the way in which her personal experiences encouraged her to be intentional about her life and the legacy she leaves and to find purpose in all that you do.

Leading with Impact

“In order to lead with impact, you have to first be impacted to lead.”- Clarice Phelps-

This talk uncovers the reasons why individuals are impacted to lead in their communities, on the job, and in their daily lives. At times, the impact you leave comes at the risk of your own comfort and safety. But the conviction to see change is the motivator to lead and impact in the lives of others.

Claiming A Seat at The Periodic Table

From middle school violinist to the periodic table

We often believe we know where life is taking us but, similar to the way many scientific discoveries occur, many of us end up on different paths and in rooms we never anticipated.  Your true calling is not dictated by the path you take, but the journey you make. This talk will not only reveal the highs and lows of making history but, more importantly, it will teach us all that where we begin doesn’t determine where we go.

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