Throughout her career, Sherry J. Yennello, a chemistry professor and associate dean for faculty affairs at Texas A&M University, has worked hard not only to push the frontiers of nuclear chemistry but also to increase participation of women and minorities in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Her success in both of these endeavors has earned her the respect and praise of her colleagues.
“I have seen firsthand Dr. Yennello’s dedication to solid scientific principles, to academic excellence, and to service, within the university and beyond, through the opening of opportunities for diversity in the scientific community,” says Marcetta Y. Darensbourg, a chemistry professor at Texas A&M. “Through her interests and leadership positions, she has addressed the causes at all levels that impede the progress of women in science.”
“Sherry is a first-rate chemist whose work on heavy-ion collisions is internationally respected; she has also been a tireless advocate for women and students,” says Steven W. Yates, a chemistry professor at the University of Kentucky. “She has provided exemplary service to our profession at all levels.”
To recognize Yennello’s balance of top-notch research and service, she is being honored by ACS with the 2011 Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal.
“I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy in my career trying to make more opportunities available for a broader spectrum of people,” Yennello says. “This award is an acknowledgment and recognition of the importance of this effort.
“Right now, there is a small segment of the population that makes up a large part of the STEM workforce,” Yennello explains. “This means there’s a large part of the talent pool that we’re not tapping into when we’re talking about STEM fields,” she says, adding that accessing this broader pool “benefits all of us.”
One effort that Yennello, 46, is currently involved with is a national conversation on gender equality within physics departments. Her efforts, through the American Physical Society, aim to engage members of physics departments in evaluating their departments and assessing ways to make opportunities more broadly available to a more diverse set of people.
“I really believe you need to win over the hearts and minds of people for change to really happen,” Yennello points out. “You can legislate action, but you can’t legislate what people think and how people respond. If you can get people to think about what’s going on and why, then you’re going to have lasting change.”
Yennello received a B.S. in chemistry and in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1985 and 1986, respectively. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear chemistry from Indiana University in 1990. After a two-year stint as a research associate at Michigan State University, Yennello joined the faculty of Texas A&M, where her research focuses on the use of accelerator-based heavy-ion reactions to study the dynamics and thermodynamics of excited nuclear matter and determine the nuclear equation of state.
A fellow of the American Physical Society, Yennello has received numerous awards including the 2010 Outstanding Mentoring Award given by the Texas A&M Women’s Faculty Network.
Yennello will present the award address before the Division of Nuclear Chemistry & Technology.