The University of Mississippi Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has received the Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences for the Southeastern Region of the American Chemical Society (ACS), for the year 2015. The Department was nominated for the award by the Ole Miss local section of the ACS.
There were a number of accolades highlighted in the nomination package, which were the direct result of the department’s longstanding efforts to increase participation of women and underrepresented minorities in chemistry. Of particular note was the recent hiring of the Department’s first African-American woman as an Assistant Professor in 2014, and the hiring of recent African-American graduates, Dr. Margo Montgomery-Richardson and Dr. Shana Stoddard, as Assistant Professors at Alcorn State University and Rhodes College, respectively. Additionally, a former summer program participant, Sharifa T. Love-Rutledge (Tougaloo College Undergraduate) made history by becoming the first African-American woman to graduate from the Department of Chemistry at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Overall, five African-American and one Hispanic Ph.D. students, three of whom are women, earned their chemistry doctorates from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry over a one year period during 2012-2013.
Other notable achievements include a graduate population that has maintained a 30-50% female and a 10-15% minority rate over the past five years, and a B.S. Forensic Chemistry program where 76% of the majors are women.
The Department has vigorously adopted a number of new strategies to recruit underrepresented students into the chemistry program. There is a new awards celebration, which, in 2015 alone, recognized 32 female undergraduate chemistry students. The Department has implemented a “welcome to school” picnic for undergraduate chemistry students, which also has increased the number of women and minority chemistry majors. Further, the Department recently modified its ACS accredited B.S. in Chemistry degree to have an optional Biochemistry emphasis to attract pre-med students, which resulted in women becoming nearly half of those majors.
The Department will receive a Stan Israel plaque and $1000 check to continue its efforts. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has over 300 undergraduate chemistry majors and over 60 graduate students. It offers Bachelors of Arts, Bachelors of Science, Masters, and Doctoral degrees. The Ole Miss local section of the ACS is located in north Mississippi and encompasses 21 counties. The chapter’s goals center around meaningful social and professional relationships between chemistry related professionals including high school and college students, teachers at all levels in the chemical sciences, and professional chemists.