LGBT in the Chemical Sciences: Outstanding Feature by Linda Wang
Jun17

LGBT in the Chemical Sciences: Outstanding Feature by Linda Wang

Before I get to the meat of this post, I have a public service message related to why I'm calling attention to some superb, recent work by Linda Wang in a recent issue of Chemical & Engineering News. This month marks the renewal of the Diversity in Science Blog Carnival, a series of monthly blogpost round-ups centered around a rotating theme of topics related to things unrelated to straight white guys. Launched originally by Dr. Danielle Lee, Jeremy Yoder has offered to host this month's theme at his Denim & Tweed blog to celebrate the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities in the STEM disciplines. How does a blog carnival work, you ask? You write a post related to the monthly theme and submit the URL to the host before the deadline. A couple of days later, the host writes a post that aggregates all the posts with a short description and link to your blog. Here's Jeremy's call: To celebrate Pride Month 2011, Denim and Tweed is hosting a relaunched Diversity in Science blog carnival, collecting online writing about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues from across the science blogosphere. Alberto Roca of Minority Postdoc is leading the DiS relaunch, and he's just created a handy online submission form for the carnival. So now sending in your posts—new for June or years old—is as easy as copying a permanent URL into the form (preferably in the "message" box) and signing it with your e-mail address. What are you waiting for? You have until Monday, 27 June to submit, so I can put the carnival online by the 30th! When Jeremy posts the carnival, your writing will be aggregated with all others who wrote on that theme. It's a great way to make your blog known because there will often be many more eyes on a carnival than your own blog - this was a strategy I was encouraged to take when I was a fledgling blogger. Carnivals not only helped draw new traffic to my blog and also got me on others' blogrolls. So, even if you are not a LGBT blogger, you can certainly be an ally - that's reason enough to participate in this carnival. I've already put up one entry over at my Take As Directed blog on PLoS Blogs. There, I wrote about hearing civil rights legend, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), and reading about his support for gay rights - sometimes not a popular stance in the African American community. LGBT in the Chemical Sciences Today, I want to raise attention to an excellent series of articles from Linda Wang on efforts by the...

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Minority Student Success with NOBCChE
May24

Minority Student Success with NOBCChE

In 2005, more than two-thirds of the American scientific workforce was composed of white males. But by 2050, white males will make up less than one-fourth of the population. If the pipeline fails to produce qualified nonwhite scientists, we will, in effect, be competing against the rest of the world with one hand tied behind our backs. This statement came from a superb L.A. Times op-ed in early 2010 by Irving R. Epstein is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor of chemistry at Brandeis University. I've used this quote and article for the last two years at the international ScienceOnline science communicators meeting held annually here in North Carolina. In his piece entitled, "The Science of Science Education," Epstein argues why - and how - we can better educate and retain underrepresented students in the sciences. In describing how he set up his HHMI-supported project, Epstein gave us some interesting background on why students from underrepresented backgrounds have tended to underperform in STEM coursework relative to other groups: The most promising approach I came across was developed by Uri Treisman at UC Berkeley in the late 1970s. Treisman wanted to understand why, over a 10-year period, there was not a single year in which more than two black or Latino students at Berkeley received grades of B-minus or better in first-term calculus. He set up a study to follow 20 African American and 20 Chinese American students with comparable socioeconomic backgrounds. His findings defied the stereotypes. Treisman demonstrated that several widely held assumptions -- that black students were less motivated or less prepared or had less family support -- could not explain their lower grades. His conclusion was that "the black students typically worked alone" while "the Chinese students learned from each other." Epstein goes on to say that he partnered with The Posse Foundation to create a HHMI program at Brandeis. Each year, ten African American students are recruited at the high school level to provide group activities and a college "boot camp" introduction that prepares them for the kind of rigor and collaborative efforts required to succeed. Epstein reported that in the 2009 cohort, all but one of the students passed introductory chemistry with six of them passing with honors. These kind of collaborative, partnering activities are those that I find very important at my university, a historically-Black college/university (HBCU) whose student body is roughly 80% African American with other underrepresented groups who may be first-generation college students and/or from low-income backgrounds. In addition to helping these students take advantage of tutoring and encourage group learning, I also find it important for students to engage with professional...

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ACS Public Service Award to NIGMS Director, Jeremy Berg
Apr22

ACS Public Service Award to NIGMS Director, Jeremy Berg

We here at the World Headquarters of Terra Sigillata wanted to send a shout-out to the only friend of the science blogosphere who oversees a $2 billion budget, Dr. Jeremy Berg of the National Institute for General Medical Sciences. In an April 13th Capitol Hill ceremony, Dr. Berg was recognized with a 2011 American Chemical Society Public Service Award together with Norman P. Neureiter, Ph.D., senior advisor to the Center for Science Diplomacy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The ACS press release states: Jeremy M. Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been an advocate for scientific research, research training, and programs designed to increase the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral research workforce. He has served as director of NIGMS since November 2003, overseeing a diverse array of research in areas including chemistry, biological chemistry, and pharmacology. The institute supports more than 4,500 research grants, about 10 percent of the grants funded by NIH as a whole. Under Berg’s leadership, NIGMS has increased the visibility of the role chemistry plays in improving health and has recognized the importance of green chemistry. Berg has also overseen the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award and New Innovator Award programs, which encourage innovation by supporting exceptionally creative investigators. Prior to his appointment as NIGMS director, Berg directed the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md., where he also served as professor and director of the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry. In addition, he directed the Markey Center for Macromolecular Structure and Function and co-directed the W.M. Keck Center for the Rational Design of Biologically Active Molecules at the university. Our overlords colleagues at C&EN - Associate Editor Dr. Britt Erickson, to be precise - also ran an article this past Monday with a nice photo of Drs. Berg and Neureiter. Berg will be leaving NIGMS this summer to relocate with his wife, breast cancer imaging guru, Wendie Berg, MD, PhD, to the University of Pittsburgh as Associate Senior Vice Chancellor for Science Strategy and Planning (Pitt press release). While his departure is bittersweet for those of us who have engaged with him on a variety of levels, his decision is one that was widely lauded across the science blogosphere as in this December, 2010, blogpost by our colleague, DrugMonkey: Many of us are in dual-professional and even dual-academic partnerships these days. There are struggles and compromises that are almost as varied as the number of couples involved. Here's a member of a partnership taking what looks,...

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HeLa T-shirt and button design contest
Mar24

HeLa T-shirt and button design contest

Wanna put your mad Photoshop skillz to a good non-profit cause? Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, (and I) need your help for scientist give-away items to support The Henrietta Lacks Foundation. Scroll down to the end of the post for information on the Foundation's mission or just click here. I'll be at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Orlando during first week of April and will be manning a booth to promote the Foundation to raise awareness about our mission and, hopefully, cultivate philanthropy among individuals and companies who may care to support the cause (Disclosure: I am a non-compensated member of the Foundation's Board of Directors). We want to offer two types of promotional items that are beyond my graphic design skills: 1. Two sets of buttons, both 1-inch diameter (2.54 cm), with the words: a. "Thank You #HeLa" or "I Love #HeLa" centered, and b. "I [heart] HeLa" centered both with the text of the URL, henriettalacksfoundation.org, around the bottom rim of the button The font can be of your choosing. 2. A black T-shirt using the following HeLa immunofluorescence image on the front with accompanying text, "Thank You HeLa" and the reverse with "henriettalacksfoundation.org" on the back. Once again, the font can be of your choosing. What would be lovely is to have the three cells in the center as the primary graphic with the other cells 'shopped out. However, we're totally open to whatever design wizardry strikes you. Update: some folks have asked about whether the image needs to be the exact photo of the cells or whether they can be an artistic rendering of the cells using the photo as a model.  Absolutely - use your artistic license and show us what you've got! If you wish to offer your assistance, you may send your graphics files to me via Gmail to abelpharmboy. The reward for the selected images will be a T-shirt with said design and a personally-inscribed (by Rebecca, not me) first-edition hardback version of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks . Yes, I am so challenged as to not even be able to figure out how to make circular text around a button template. Hence, I simply want to be in a position to just hand off the image files to a printer and get our promotion items printed without me fumbling around with Photoshop and a billion different fonts. Thank you for considering helping out with this effort. If you have any questions, you can comment below, Gmail me at abelpharmboy, or tweet me @davidkroll. The Henrietta Lacks Foundation...

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Open-access: ACS honors African American chemists for Black History Month
Feb07

Open-access: ACS honors African American chemists for Black History Month

In the United States, the month of February is known as Black History Month - a time to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to all facets of our lives. The ACS has done an absolutely wonderful job in offering an open-access feature on eleven of the most noteworthy Black chemists from across American history. The stories of these remarkable individuals span from New Orleans chemist Norbert Rilleaux and his industrial evaporation process for sugar refining to Marie Maynard Daly, the first African American woman Ph.D. in chemistry, then all the way up to our first two African American presidents of the American Chemical Society. The individual entries are accompanied by other ACS-associated resources such as the National Historic Chemical Landmark program - where the work of three of the featured chemists is honored - and biographies put together by the ACS-affiliated Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia who I spoke of last week. For science educators, whether at K-12 or university level, these biographies are fabulous for helping students appreciate just how rich the field of chemistry is with African American contributions. In all of these cases, these outstanding investigators had to overcome great obstacles to their success, societal and financial. However, we should all celebrate these remarkable individuals for their contributions to our rich history - regardless of their individual heritage. The eleven chemists represented in this feature are timeless giants in the field. In my field of natural products, the chemist Percy Julian is revered - and his story was elegantly portrayed in the PBS NOVA documentary, Forgotten Genius. Julian is perhaps best known for his original work on the synthesis of the cholinesterase inhibitor, physostigmine, for glaucoma and the search for cortisone precursors to treat the most debilitating forms of rheumatoid arthritis. My only criticism of this feature is that the lack of a twelfth block on the graphic above is rather glaring - as is the presence of only one woman. Does this mean that there was difficulty in identifying one more Black chemist of similar stature? If so, we - I mean all of us in chemistry and chemistry education - need to do a better job in providing equal opportunities to African American chemistry students and those of other traditionally marginalized groups. This is otherwise a tremendous resource - make sure you peruse it to see how you might best use this information in your own teaching or personal appreciation for the history of the...

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Racism charged in DePaul chemistry tenure denial
Nov21

Racism charged in DePaul chemistry tenure denial

Organometallics chemist and NSF CAREER awardee, Dr. Quinetta D. Shelby, has been denied tenure in the Department of Chemistry at DePaul University even after an institutional appeals committee determined that her negative departmental review was flawed. According to a note at Inside Higher Ed on Thursday: Supporters of Quinetta Shelby released documents Wednesday suggesting bias in her tenure denial at DePaul University. Shelby is the only black faculty member in the chemistry department at the university, and while she was rejected by her department, a university appeals panel found that she was treated unfairly. Among other things, the appeals panel found that her department changed policies after the review started, refused to consider some of her publications and awards even though they met criteria that had been established, and seemed to focus on minor negative issues in otherwise positive portions of her tenure file. The "numerous procedural violations" raised significant questions of fairness, the appeals panel found, suggesting that the negative departmental recommendation be set aside. The Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, DePaul's president, has declined to reverse the decision. This year, Shelby was one of a group of six persons not granted tenure at DePaul: two African Americans, two Asian-Americans, and two Latino professors. No white faculty were denied this year. Conflicting reports from Rev. Holtschneider and the faculty indicate that minority faculty tenure rates have historically been either equal to or lower than those for white faculty. Admittedly, judging individual tenure decisions from afar can be unscientific, particularly since neither the released documents cited above or DePaul's Department of Chemistry promotion and tenure document(s) can be accessed online. But Shelby's case in particular has the aroma of injustice. A diverse group of supporters - yes, even older, bespectacled and bearded white dudes (video here) - came to her side in a press conference on Wednesday noting that issues of racial bias have been going on for at least five years. The lack of higher administration action on the "numerous procedural violations" cited by the appeals panel also smells bad. Moreover, Holtschneider's comments in the Fox Chicago interview are disappointing in that he says, "we have a committee of faculty working on that right now, so we make sure that what happened in one year at DePaul never happens again." How about examining why this happened in the first place before you jettison Dr. Shelby? But, then again, Father Holtschneider is fine. DePaul trustees just granted him a six-year contract extension on November 4th. Here's what we can find out about Professor Shelby. She earned her BS from the University of Chicago and PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign....

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