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Partnership Aims to Increase Minority Chemistry Doctorates

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the American Chemical Society are teaming up to train underrepresented minority students in chemical research to increase their numbers in chemistry doctoral programs.

Beginning this fall, the ACS Bridge Program will bring talented, underrepresented minority students to the UW-Madison campus to build stronger application portfolios for chemistry doctoral programs.

The initiative also will provide an opportunity for the UW-Madison chemistry department’s faculty and graduate students to serve as mentors.

“This will create a new pipeline through which students can enter graduate school,” said Dr. Desiree Bates, computational chemistry leader and diversity committee member in the chemistry department. “For reasons other than ability, they did not have strong enough applications to get into a Ph.D. program.”

The UW-Madison bridge students will have 21 months to hone their research and writing skills, take courses, present a poster at a national ACS meeting and earn a research master’s degree.

Support comes from the university’s chemistry department, College of Letters & Science, graduate school, ACS and the National Science Foundation’s INCLUDES program. They will jointly contribute about $200,000 each year for the first three cohorts.

Students may apply each year through ACS, which shares the information with the current bridge programs at UW-Madison and Georgia Tech.

“This strengthens the efforts of our diversity programs and gives us the opportunity to fund an initiative that could have a large impact on increasing diversity,” Bates says.

Chemistry professor Dr. Robert Hamers, who was instrumental in bringing the program to UW-Madison, said the effort will add to the pool of diverse applicants rather than redistributing those already in the field. As students complete their first year of bridge requirements, they will apply for admission into a doctoral program.

“The intent is for this to prepare them for national admittance into any Ph.D.-granting institution,” he said.

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