Amie Fornah Sankoh has defied the odds stacked against her and made history.

According to Chemistry World, she is officially the first deaf, Black woman to receive a doctorate within the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) discipline in the United States.

It is also believed that Sankoh is the first in the world to accomplish such a feat.

Her Origin Story

Sankoh first lost her hearing around the age of three having grown up in Sierra Leone during the civil war. Due to this, she ultimately began to fail elementary school.

It wasn’t long before her father sent her to the United States at the age of 12 with hopes that there would be a cure for her hearing ailment.

Her Journey To The United States

“My father sent me to live with his best friend in America, who adopted me,” she shared, according to Chemistry World. “Doctors in the U.S. could not cure my deafness, but I was able to join the deaf community where I learned American Sign Language (ASL) over the next few years.”

Despite making some forward movement, Sankoh was still struggling in school, especially since she had to both learn a new language and stay on top of her studies. She found it very difficult to understand her classmates and teachers, but math was one area that she grew to love and could grasp more quickly than other subjects.

Her Love For Math

“Mathematics is just very visual, and I was able to enjoy that,” Sankoh also shared, based on the report from the outlet. “Anytime a person talked, I didn’t understand anything, but when they would write out the formulas then I could see it and I could see each step of how to solve that problem.”

In high school, thanks to her knowledge of ASL and access to an interpreter, Sankoh began to excel in her studies at a fast pace.

“I really fell in love with the more complex mathematics, which is why I got into chemistry,” she said, reflecting on her high school years. “I was able to learn about and see chemical reactions, how the reactions occur, and then make predictions. It was very exciting, with the reaction, you’d have to write it down and draw it out.”

Defying The Odds

Sankoh officially graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology.