Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE) is one of two institutions nationwide selected to be inaugural sites for the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Bridge Program, which aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students who receive doctoral degrees in chemical sciences.
The other institution chosen as an initial Bridge site is the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Chemistry, while ACS has named four other schools as partners.
In September 2018, ACS joined the Inclusive Graduate Education Network (IGEN), a coalition of five scientific societies formed to bolster the number of underrepresented students in the physical sciences. The ACS Bridge Program supports this national effort by assisting chemical science departments in creating a “bridge” for these students to earn their doctorates in chemistry or chemical engineering.
“ACS Bridge Sites and Partnership Departments will help amplify the call for action to diversify the chemical sciences,” says ACS Bridge Program Director Joerg Schlatterer. “Our Society is proud of its stellar cadre of participating institutions.”
Georgia Tech will receive funding from ACS to establish its Bridge Program, which will enroll at least two Bridge fellows annually who will earn a thesis MS in chemical engineering while receiving extensive support, mentoring, and training to prepare for success in a PhD program.
“Georgia Tech is excited to partner with the ACS Bridge Program,” says Carson Meredith, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering who is the Bridge project leader. “We believe we must be intentional to ensure that the next generation of PhDs in the chemical sciences includes representation of the diverse population in the U.S. The Bridge program structure will be adaptable to the individual student’s needs and will involve mentoring by students and other faculty engineered to ensure success.”
In 2016, about 12 percent of 10,000 BS degrees in chemical engineering went to underrepresented minority (URM) students. Only a fraction of these students entered a PhD program in the chemical sciences – far fewer than their representation relative to other groups.
Over the past five years, Georgia Tech’s ChBE PhD Program has enrolled about 10 percent URM students, more than the national average of 7 percent in science and engineering. However, the rate of which URM students leave PhD programs without earning a degree is higher than that of the general population.
"As a public institution located in Atlanta, we are a leader in educating students from underrepresented groups,” says Martha Grover, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering who is the Bridge project co-leader. “However, the best is still not very good. The numbers are too small, and we are committed to doing more. The infrastructure and financial support provided by ACS Bridge will catalyze this new program."
In addition to the two inaugural ACS Bridge Sites, partner institutions include the chemical engineering department at the University of Arkansas as well as the chemistry departments at The Ohio State University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Indiana University. These departments will also enroll students who have submitted their graduate school application to the ACS Bridge Program and will provide a supportive, bridge-like environment for students from underrepresented groups.
Each of these six partnering institutions will work closely with ACS to ensure that the values of diversity, inclusion, and mentoring are being met. The American Chemical Society Bridge Project is supported by NSF-1834545. To learn more about the ACS Bridge Program, visit the website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.