C² mixes chemistry & community to promote undergraduate scholars

Date

08/20/21

Mixing chemistry with community produces C2 a new program in the Department of Chemistry that’s dedicated to serving undergraduate majors from underrepresented groups in the sciences.

Coffers chemistry majors who identify as African American, LatinX, or Native American mentorships with graduate students and postdocs, monthly networking events that include faculty members as well as career and skills development workshops. The undergraduates will be eligible for summer research fellowships, conference travel awards and research presentation opportunities. 

Professor Lisa Olshansky is a member of the C2 team leading this new program. Olshansky said some of the barriers people encounter in navigating through academia and chemistry arise from a lack of information that they simply have not been made privy to through their current network of family and friends.

Students stand outside Noyes laboratory, talking during a C2 event.
Undergraduate and graduate students talk on the plaza outside Noyes Laboratory during a welcome event introducing the C² program in the Department of Chemistry.

"I anticipate that by providing these pieces of key information within a supportive environment, this program will have transformative impacts on our students from underrepresented groups in the chemical sciences," Olshansky said. "I'm also excited about the potential for future expansion of the program to provide a more supportive and inclusive environment for our graduate students from underrepresented groups. Having a strong network can have a huge impact on your career trajectory, and I hope that the network we are creating will serve as a springboard for the success of our students."

The C2 team has organized a welcome event open to anyone interested in this new program. The free informational session featuring free food catered by Maize will be at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, 2021, at Centennial Plaza, which is the area between the Chemistry Annex building and Noyes Laboratory on the east side of the Main Quad on campus.

Playing off of Einstein’s E = mc2 equation that correlates mass with energy, Olshansky said the C2 mission is to create a critical mass of chemistry scholars poised to excel.

"Becoming a C2 affiliate, you will become a part of something bigger than yourself. You will get to interact with graduate student mentors who look like you and have excelled in chemistry. You will meet people and take on new leadership roles, and will do so within a community of scholars driving the next generation of chemists. You will also gain access to career training workshops designed specifically for you, and will become eligible to apply for prestigious research scholarships and travel awards," Olshansky explained. "The question really is, why would anyone not want to get involved?"

Students sit at desks in a classroom in Noyes Laboratory listening to a presentation by Lisa Olshansky.
Students listen to a presentation by professor Lisa Olshansky about the C² program in a classroom in Noyes Laboratory.

Here’s how undergraduates, graduates, postdocs and faculty members can get involved in the C2 program:

  • Undergraduate chemistry majors who identify as African American, LatinX, or Native American can become C2 affiliates by emailing Elise McCarren at emccarr2@illinois.edu.
  • Graduate students and postdocs from underrepresented groups can become C2 mentors by emailing Joel Roberts at joelr3@illinois.edu.
  • Undergraduates, graduates and postdocs in the program as well as faculty members are encouraged to attend monthly workshop events, which will include food and socializing/networking and professional development.

The C2 team also includes Josè Andino Martinez, a chemistry instructional faculty member, and Patricia Simpson, director of Academic Advising and Career Services in the School of Chemical Sciences, Elise McCarren, director of the Chemistry Merit program, and Joel Roberts, graduate student in professor Steve Zimmerman's labC2 is sponsored by the 3M Corporation, the Department of Chemistry, the Chemistry Merit Program, and the UIUC office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

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