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Science Mentors Receive Presidential Awards

March 21, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 12

Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Parkin is congratulated by President Obama.
Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Parkin is congratulated by President Obama.

Two of the 11 individuals and one of the four organizations selected for this year’s Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics & Engineering Mentoring are being honored for developing programs that aid students pursuing degrees in chemistry and related sciences. The awards were presented by President Barack Obama at the White House in January.

The awards recognize the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering—particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in those fields. Each winner receives $10,000 to advance his or her mentoring efforts.

Following are the chemistry-related awardees:

Anthony Carpi, a professor of environmental toxicology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, was recognized for his work in creating a program at the college that arranges for forensic science majors to work on research projects with faculty members. Carpi started the Program for Research Initiatives for Science Majors in 2006, and several participants have won awards for their work. Carpi’s research focuses on the transport of heavy metals in the environment and the potential effect of environmental change on the global cycling of mercury pollution.

Gerard F. R. Parkin, professor of inorganic chemistry at Columbia University, was honored for going above and beyond normal mentoring activities. For example, through shared access to high-tech instrumentation in his lab, he encourages collaborations between his graduate students and faculty at local institutions. He has also created opportunities for underrepresented schoolchildren in the New York City area to use the instructional chemistry labs at Columbia to carry out simple experiments under the guidance of graduate students.

Purchase College, State University of New York, was honored for its Baccalaureate & Beyond Community College Mentoring Project. Started in 2000 by Joseph Skrivanek, chemistry professor and director of the project, the program has served more than 300 students, 60% of whom are underrepresented minorities; more than 70% have graduated with a four-year degree. Of the science and mathematics students served to date, 83% have completed associate degrees (compared with 30% nationally) and 71% have completed bachelor’s degrees in science fields. A third of the students are pursuing graduate work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.



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