Graduate School

The University of Mississippi

Chemistry and Biochemistry Department Awarded for Advancing Diversity

This fall, the local section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) awarded the University of Mississippi Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry the Stanley S. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity for the Southeastern Region for 2015. The nomination package listed several recent achievements by the department, which centered around attracting and retaining more women and underrepresented minorities. The award will furnish the department with a Stan Israel plaque and a check for $1,000 to continue its efforts in diversification.

Nathan Hammer, Associate Professor in the Chemistry department, said in his announcement, “Our nomination letter cited our recent efforts in mentoring a diverse graduate population, recruitment of a diverse faculty and undergraduate student cohort, and our summer REU program.  Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen!” Later, he added, “We’ve worked very hard to increase the accessibility of our BS Chemistry Degree by supporting students during the summer and adding a new Biochemistry track for pre-med students.”

The department hired its first African-American woman as an Assistant Professor in 2014. Additionally, two graduates of the University of Mississippi Chemistry department have gone on to achieve similar positions at other institutions. Dr. Margo Montgomery-Richardson, for one, is now an Assistant Professor at Alcorn State University; Dr. Shana Stoddard is now an Assistant Professor at Rhodes University. Though not a UM graduate, Dr. Sharifa T. Love-Rutledge, who made history by becoming the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Alabama, participated in a summer program at UM before attending Tougaloo College.

Over the past five years, the Chemistry department’s graduate population has included a 30%-50% ratio of female students and 10%-15% of minority students. The undergraduate B.S. Forensic Chemistry program is made up of 76% female students. Various department-wide programs and initiatives have made these numbers possible Some include a new awards celebration, which has recognized many female students, and a welcome picnic for undergraduates at the beginning of each year, which has been linked with increasing the number of female and minority students. Another increase in female students came when the department modified the B.S. Chemistry program to include an optional Biochemistry emphasis– an attractive enticement for pre-med students. At present, the department has over 300 undergraduate students and over 60 graduate students.

 

By Katelyn Miller