The laws of physics and the physics of law

Obiageli Nwodoh ’21 repurposed her STEM skills to pave a pre-law path at MIT and pursue social justice.

School of Science, Physics, Political science, Alumni/ae, Profile, Law, Policy, Social justice, Diversity and inclusion, Pandemic, Poverty, Careers, Classes and programs, Clubs and activities, Computer science and technology, Machine learning, Technology and society, Profiles, Students, Office of Engineering Outreach Program (OEOP), MIT Is, MIT Pre-Law Society, Career Advising and Professional Development

“I have cherished how being a physicist has prepared me to not be a physicist,” says Obiageli “Oby” Nwodoh ’21, shown wearing her National Society of Black Engineers pin. Photo: Abdul-Baqi Okoya

When Obiageli “Oby” Nwodoh arrived at MIT, she already felt at home. A native of Bedford, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of Thomas Nwodoh, a former MIT Media Lab researcher; her first physics teacher at Bedford High was an MIT alum, Joe Zahka; and she had participated in the Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) program.

At MIT, she studied physics, excelling in research, data analytics, machine learning, and computer programming. “I fell in love with physics because it touched reality,” says Nwodoh. “I had a way of explaining the world in numbers when words were challenging. It was learning a new language and using it to describe the world.”

But her interests began to drift toward economic justice. Away from home, she slowly began to understand the economic inequality her family had always experienced. Though unaware as a child, she later learned her family benefited from certain antipoverty initiatives. “It helped us immensely with paying bills, funding extracurricular programs, and more,” she says.

The final click for her was during an internship with a defense contractor, which didn’t match with her political views. She wanted to take her career in a more people-focused direction, so as a sophomore, she enrolled in classes and extracurricular activities that stoked her interests in social justice, science activism, public policy, and equity and diversity.

That’s when dawned on this physics student that she wanted to be a lawyer. And she was surprised at how well the two disparate fields complemented each other.

“The law requires the critical thinking offered by physics,” she says. “With both, there is always the need to observe global issues, obtain necessary data, and use some framework to find a solution. I wanted to solve hard world problems, but those that helped people. The law was an outlet to solving major world issues that I experienced as a child. I believe that in America, we are so comfortable with poverty. The law has been a way to change that, along with many other issues.”

Nwodoh worked for several summers with Greater Boston Legal Services’ low-income tax clinic, on cases pertaining to taxes, immigration, and employment. “It was meaningful because I was solving so many issues my own single mother faced,” she says.

By the second summer with GBLS, her work was helping with pandemic stimulus checks. “What really opened up my eyes was how the pandemic affected low-income populations,” she says. “The stimulus provided money for people, but I didn’t hear enough about people who didn’t receive the checks, including immigrants and many people receiving federal assistance through welfare. There were a lot of forgotten people in the pandemic. My work at GBLS solidified my interest in the law and how much impact it could have.” 

As a host for the Division of Student Life’s podcast “MIT Is…” Nwodoh and her co-host Gabe Owens ’21 explored everything from MIT student life to global issues. She turned some of her research projects into podcasts about immigration, minority voter suppression, and the U.S. tax code, and another podcast turned into a research project where she examined how tax credits could be distributed in the state of New York to maximize payout. “I have dreams of starting my own show one day,” she says. 

Nwodoh later worked with the Harvard College Black Pre-Law Association, before helping launch the MIT Pre-Law Society to connect students with relevant career opportunities, classes, and resources. She also was active with the National Society of Black Engineers, and was a peer career advisor at MIT’s Career Advising and Professional Development office. “So many face imposter syndrome, both academically and professionally. Being able to hype a student up and reassure them of their capabilities always filled me with joy,” she says.

Her physics education continued to play a role in her legal work. When she researched policing and voting, and steered various projects as a virtual racial justice data analyst intern with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, she relied on her skills as a scientist.

“I saw how there was a plethora of data in the world, but not as many people who knew how to use it. Though my experience was short, it inspired me to learn more about data analytics and how it could be useful in the law, ethics, and other fields.”

After graduating this spring with a major in physics and a minor in political science, she became a program paralegal at Ropes and Gray in Chicago, and is looking into law schools. She hopes to focus on technology, such as the impact that algorithm bias has on vulnerable populations.

I have cherished how being a physicist has prepared me to not be a physicist,” she says. “Physics taught me the importance of problem-solving which could be applied in other areas of my life and interests. The technical skills could be used to ‘hack’ different parts of my world. Physics and the law come down to the same thing: interacting with the world in a profound way. MIT taught me that there is always space for my skills in every nook and cranny of the world’s biggest questions. I feel like my work as a physicist has prepared me to delve deeper into any issue, and holds me to an ethical standard of doing so.”

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Jamie Laing explains why he is one of Spencer Matthews' only friends

Jamie Laing and Spencer Matthews attend the “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” UK Premiere at in 2019. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images) Yahoo Entertainment's editors are committed to ... Read more »

Melbourne ends one of the world's longest lockdowns

BROADCAST AND DIGITAL RESTRICTIONS~**Broadcasters: NO USE AUSTRALIA Digital: NO USE AUSTRALIA / .COM.AU INTERNET SITES / ANY INTERNET SITE OF ANY AUSTRALIAN BASED MEDIA ORGANISATIONS OR MOBILE PLATFORMS / AUSTRALIAN ... Read more »

Mummy's older than we thought: new find rewrites the history books

The ancient Egyptians were carrying out sophisticated mummifications of their dead 1,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to new evidence which could lead to a rewriting of the history ... Read more »

Drone Footage Captures Four Active Vents at La Palma Volcano

Four active vents on the Cumbre Vieja volcano were visible on October 22, spewing lava and other volcanic material over La Palma, in the Spanish Canary Islands. The following morning, ... Read more »

Marvin Vettori overcomes a 'massive' Paulo Costa, who blamed an injury for weight issue

LAS VEGAS — Paulo Costa entered the Octagon at Apex on Saturday, his grudge match with Marvin Vettori only moments away. In 90 seconds, maybe two minutes, he’d be able ... Read more »

Fifteen MIT faculty honored as “Committed to Caring” for 2021-23

Honor recognizes professors who went the extra mile advising during the pandemic’s disruptions. Read more »

At MIT, Nobel laureate Frances Arnold describes innovation by evolution

In the Hoyt C. Hottel Lecture, Arnold tells the story of her pathbreaking research to engineer better enzymes for critical applications. Read more »

Saving seaweed with machine learning

PhD candidate Charlene Xia is developing a low-cost system to monitor the microbiome of seaweed farms and identify diseases before they spread. Read more »

Even newborns need a good night's sleep! Babies who snooze longer and wake up less throughout the night are less likely to be OVERWEIGHT, study finds

Experts led from the Brigham and Women's Hospital studied 300 newborn kids They monitored sleep habits and body mass indices over the first six monthsOverweight risk is reduced by 26 per cent by an hour's extra sleep each nightThe team believe regular sleep patterns help to mitigate against overeating Read more »

Rate of coal and gas power decline needed to limit climate change to 2.7°F has NEVER been achieved before, historical analysis reveals

Researchers reviewed fossil fuel usage details from 105 nations over 60 yearsExperts say reducing fossil fuel use in power is key to tackling climate change The team looked back of historical data to examine the likely societal impact They found no parallel in history for the level of coal and gas reduction needed  Read more »

Salmon populations are being 'squeezed' after 40 YEARS of changes in the rivers and freshwater seas they swim in, including climate change and seals preying on them

Five different species of Pacific salmon and trout are declining because of 40 years of changes in their marine and freshwater environmentsThe species being affected are seeing declines in numbers in the Keogh River, near Port Hardy on Vancouver IslandA fluctuating climate, increase in seals, competing salmon, warmer water temperatures and an increase in watershed logging are playing a role Steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout populations declined by 80% and 70% between 1976 and 2015 Read more »

Microplastics are found in the blood of farm animals including cows and pigs for the first time - raising concerns about their movement through the food chain

Microplastics have been found in the blood of cows and pigs for the first timeIt has sparked concern about their movement through the food chain to humansScientists believe discovery could have serious implications for public healthPlastic particles entering bloodstreams risk being deposited in people's organs Read more »

Strictly star Anton du Beke opens up about secret wedding

Anton Du Beke is wowing in his new role as a full-time judge on Strictly Come Dancing – and has revealed that he sprung the idea of marriage on his ... Read more »

Kitten Tiny Tim ‘doing amazingly' after being found alone in garden at week old

A kitten nicknamed Tiny Tim is “doing amazingly” after being found in a garden away from his mother. The cat is believed to have been around a week old when ... Read more »

Kiss frontman Gene Simmons lists Las Vegas Valley mansion for sale for £10 million five months after buying it

(ES Composite) Less than five months after buying his striking Las Vegas Valley mansion, Kiss frontman Gene Simmons has listed it for sale – for £2.9 million more than he ... Read more »

Rachel Riley says she was groped by 'Countdown' fan

Rachel Riley stars as the maths guru on ‘Countdown‘. (Channel 4) Rachel Riley has told how she was once groped by a Countdown fan in front of his wife, before ... Read more »

Parents who are occasionally abrupt with their children may be guilty of 'mild neglect', says NSPCC

Mother scolding son in living room – takasuu Parents who are occasionally abrupt with their children and hold low-key celebrations may be guilty of ‘mild neglect’, according to NSPCC guidance. ... Read more »

Boris Johnson: Nothing to suggest lockdown is on the cards

Boris Johnson has said that despite a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, a winter lockdown is unlikely at the moment. Read more »

'Strictly's' AJ and Kai rival Adam and Katya's 'almost kiss'

AJ Odudu and Kai Widdrington appeared to come close to kissing. (BBC) AJ Odudu and Kai Widdrington have become the latest Strictly couple to “almost kiss” at the end of ... Read more »

Conservatives say Twitter suppresses their voices. Twitter says it amplifies them

It’s tough being a conservative on Twitter. Everywhere you look, those damn liberals are censoring right-wingers for dropping truth bombs based on facts, not feelings. At least, that’s what I’ve ... Read more »

Ruth Langsford reacts to Strictly's Rylan Clark-Neal's surprise body transformation – see photo

Strictly: It Takes Two star Rylan Clark-Neal recently revealed a look at his body transformation on Instagram, and Ruth Langsford is apparently just as impressed as he fans were. SEE: ... Read more »

Halloween's bone-chilling villain Michael Myers is ‘homophobic' in new film

A gruesome murder of a gay couple in Halloween Kills has resulted in some horror fans calling the villain Michael Myers “homophobic”. The long running Halloween franchise has largely focused ... Read more »

Climate map shows three million homes that could be flooded by 2050

Map shows areas in Portsmouth and Great Yarmouth in danger of flooding by 2050. (Gamma) A new climate change flood map has predicted three million homes could become unsellable if ... Read more »

Ant and Dec star in new promo for 'I'm A Celebrity' 2021

Ant & Dec star in a brand-new trailer for the upcoming series of I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! This year’s series returns to stunning Gwrych Castle in North ... Read more »

Roomba j7+ review: I tried iRobot's newest robotic vacuum and here's what I thought

Looking for more of the best deals, sales and product recommendations? Sign up for Yahoo Lifestyle Canada’s newsletter! The latest Roomba innovation has just arrived, and I put it to ... Read more »

Armourer, 24, on Alec Baldwin film 'wasn't sure' if she was ready for movie set roles

Hannah Gutierrez told a podcast that she had a ‘natural knack’ for working with guns – VoicesoftheWest The 24-year-old head armourer on the set where Alec Baldwin fatally shot a ... Read more »

COVID-19: Holidaymakers could be asked to have third jab to travel as 'vaccine passport concept will evolve', care minister says

British holidaymakers may in the future be asked to have a third COVID-19 vaccine dose before they are able to easily travel and return from abroad, a minister told Sky ... Read more »

New infant planet discovered by researchers in Hawaii

An international research team led by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has discovered one of the youngest planets ever observed. The findings, published in Monthly Notices of the Royal ... Read more »

Zebra foal makes public debut at Mexico zoo

The foal represents a growing hope for the conservation of the Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevyi), also known as the imperial zebra, which is the most threatened of the three species ... Read more »

Elephants have evolved to be tuskless in response to ivory poaching, study finds

Researchers in Mozambique found a dramatic shift within 15 years, illustrating how human activity can accelerate genetic changes in other species. Read more »

Remains of the Pandemic: How some apps, habits have survived and some have fallen by the wayside

Last March, when the first nationwide lockdown began, 24-year-old Sanskriti made a WhatsApp group with her friends for playing online games to while away the unexpected windfall of time the ... Read more »

NASA's uncrewed Artemis moon mission is due to launch in February, following delays caused by the pandemic and Hurricane Ida

An artist’s illustration depicts Artemis astronauts on the moon. NASA via AP NASA announced its Artemis 1 uncrewed mission to the moon is aiming for liftoff in February 2022. The ... Read more »

Elton John calls out ‘f***ing big mouth' Ed Sheeran after singer ruins ‘secret' Christmas song news

Elton John calls out ‘f***ing big mouth’ Ed Sheeran after singer ruins ‘secret’ Christmas song news Elton John has called Ed Sheeran a “f***ing big mouth” after the singer prematurely ... Read more »

Three years after the EU demanded single-use plastic ban by 2021... has it worked?

Single-use plastic often finds its way into the ocean (Getty) This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series ‘By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in ... Read more »

'Dune': The many failed attempts to adapt Frank Herbert's 'unfilmable' sci-fi classic

The title treatment for Denis Villeneuve‘s adaptation of Frank Herbert‘s Dune. (Warner Bros.) You’ll find some people who think the 1984 David Lynch adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi book ... Read more »

'Strictly' fans think Adam Peaty's tight jeans were to thank for highest Samba score of series

Adam Peaty danced the Samba. (BBC) Adam Peaty has earned the highest Samba score of Strictly Come Dancing 2021 – but viewers suspect the judges were distracted from his moves ... Read more »

‘Predator' jailed for spiking woman's drink before recording sex assault at hotel

Sean Howarth, 31, was sentenced to seven years and two months in prison. (PA) A ‘predator’ has been jailed after he spiked a woman’s drink with cocaine, sexually assaulted her ... Read more »

Greta Thunberg: 'We need public pressure, not just summits'

Climate activist Greta Thunberg has told the BBC that summits will not lead to action on climate goals unless the public demand change too. In a wide-ranging interview ahead of ... Read more »

London's Natural History Museum ice rink returns

Ice skating returns to London‘s Natural History Museum but it’s for the last time The annual winter tradition will come to an end after 16 years to make space for ... Read more »

EU unconvinced by Polish arguments on judicial changes at end of summit

© Pool, Reuters Polish arguments that fundamental judicial changes the country has made would not undermine the European Union on Friday failed to convince key bloc leaders who said that ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic