Physicist Hattie Carwell was born on July 17, 1948 in Brooklyn, New York. Carwell grew up in a nurturing black community in Ashland, Virginia, which encouraged her interest in science. After graduating from high school in 1966, she enrolled at Bennett College for Women. Carwell earned her B.S. degree in chemistry from Bennett College in 1971. She went on to earn her M.S. degree in health physics from Rutgers University in 1971.
Throughout her career, Carwell has worked nationally and internationally for the U.S. Department of Energy and the International Atomic Energy Agency as a health physicist and nuclear safeguards group leader. From 1980 to 1985, she went on leave to Vienna, Austria where she served as a nuclear safeguards inspector and group leader at the International Atomic Energy Agency. In 1990, she became a program manager for high energy and nuclear programs with the DOE San Francisco Operations Office. She then became a senior facility operations engineer at the Berkeley Site Office in 1992. In 1994, Carwell was promoted to operations lead at the Berkeley Site Office, a position which she held until 2006. She became a senior physical scientist before retiring in 2008.
Carwell has written numerous research articles and two books including, Blacks in Science: Astrophysicist to Zoologist. Carwell is a Board Member of the Northern California Council of Black Professional Engineers, an organization of which she is a past President. She is treasurer for the National Council of Black Engineers and Scientists, co-founder and chair of the Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology, and Director of the Museum of African American Technology (MAAT) Science Village. MAAT Science Village archives information on the achievements of Africa American in science and engineering.
Carwell is the recipient of numerous performance awards from the Department of Energy, and is recognized as a community leader. She is a distinguished alumna of Bennett College and included in the Black College Hall of Fame. Her achievements are annotated in biographical