Seminar Series (Silas Lecture) - Valerie J. Kuck

Wed Sep 11 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
MoSE "M" Building, Room G011

Unless otherwise noted, all Seminar Series events are held at 3 p.m. in the MoSE "M" Building (Room G011). A reception will follow the Silas Lecture in the MoSE Atrium.

Valerie J. Kuck‚Äč, Career Consultant, American Chemical Society (retired from Bell Labs)

Why Are There So Few Female Faculty Members in Several STEM Fields? What Needs to Be Done?


Since 2009 women have received a majority of the doctoral degrees granted by U.S. institutions.In several scientific fields women have made great strides, whereas in a number of STEM areas the progress has been substantially slower.ln 2017 women received 53% of the doctorates in Biological and Agricultural Sciences and 70% in the Health and Medical Sciences.In contrast, women earned only 23% of the doctorates in engineering, 25% in mathematics and computer sciences, and 34% in the physical and earth sciences.Over the years, the percentage of tenure-line female faculty members in the physical sciences, engineering and mathematics has remained low. Findings from an analysis of the responses to surveys and site visit discussions that involved over 1200 administrators, chemistry and chemical engineering faculty members, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows will be discussed.The hiring rate of female faculty members and factors contributing to their career choices will also be addressed.


Valerie J. Kuck, worked at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies in Murray Hill, New Jersey for 34 years. Most of her research was focused on the stabilization of polyolefins used in copper insulate, identification and application of high temperature coatings for optical fibers and the development of new devices.

While at Bell Labs she was encouraged by her colleagues to become active in the North Jersey Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Shortly thereafter, she was elected to represent the Section and serve as its representative to the national organization. Subsequently, she was appointed or elected to chair five national committees. She was then elected to serve nine years on the ACS Board of Directors and chaired the Board Committee on Grants and Awards.

As a committee Chair, she instituted a number of successful efforts. Those included in having more talented women appointed to national committees and proposed for leadership roles in the Society so that the number of women active in the Society reflected their distribution in the membership. She initiated procedures to substantially increase the numbers of women nominated and receiving national ACS awards, especially those based on technical accomplishments. She worked to enhance the Society’s efforts in supporting the unemployed by originating and presenting workshops at Local, Regional and National meetings and serving as a career consultant. Those efforts led her to assist in the development of workshops that were presented at many universities to assist graduate students and post-docs in planning for their careers. She proposed a new event, Sci-Mix, which is now the highest attended session held at national meetings, to facilitate chemists in meeting others with similar technical interests. Twice she organized special symposia on very late breaking scientific discoveries. With no pre-publicity, those sessions drew collectively 10,000 national meeting attendees and made the national news and were covered in the popular press. She also pushed for enhanced laboratory safety training in academe along with greater access to safe chemical handling procedures.

Since retiring from the Labs in 2001, she has done extensive research on the graduate training of chemists and explored reasons for the low numbers of female faculty members at most RI institutions. In addition to presenting numerous talks on her findings, she has written several articles and two book chapters and co-authored a book.

Kuck has received several awards from Bell Labs and three national awards from the ACS for her leadership, dedication and numerous efforts to help women and others in advancing their careers. She was named a distinguished alumnus by Saint-Mary-of the Woods College, and by her graduate school, Purdue University. She has authored 41 publications and has been granted 25 U.S. patents.

About the Phillips 66 / C.J. “Pete” Silas Program in Ethics and Leadership

Ethics, leadership and quality, grounded in strong communication skills and professionalism, are essential components of an engineering education. To spotlight the importance of these core values, in 1995 the Phillips Petroleum Foundation awarded a grant to the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering to develop the Phillips 66/C.J. “Pete” Silas Program in Ethics and Leadership.

Named in recognition of the outstanding professional achievements of Georgia Tech chemical engineering alumnus C.J. “Pete” Silas, who retired from Phillips Petroleum as chairman and CEO in 1994, the program focuses on technical and business decisions that have ethical ramifications. These topics and related areas in engineering, technology and ethics are integrated into the core chemical and biomolecular engineering curriculum and are addressed in an annual public symposium featuring prominent industrialists and ethicists.


MoSE "M" Building, Room G011