If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



ACS Scholars Celebrate Success Stories

by Madeleine Jacobs, Chair, Committee On Minority Affairs, And Honorary Chair, ACS Scholars 20th Anniversary Appeal
September 7, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 35

Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
A headshot of Madeleine Jacobs.
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

C&EN has been marking the 20th anniversary of the ACS Scholars Program once per month with a profile of an ACS Scholar or an alumnus of the program. These profiles document the success of this amazing undergraduate program, which had its first class of scholars in the fall of 1995.

Although this is an undergraduate program for gifted minorities who are underrepresented in the chemical sciences, 230 graduates of the program have received Ph.D.s (including 10 M.D.-Ph.D.s and two Ph.D.s who also earned law degrees), 16 have received law degrees after getting bachelor’s degrees in chemistry or chemical engineering, and 80 went on to earn an M.D. Additionally, hundreds of ACS Scholar alumni are in the workforce.

Last month, at the 250th ACS national meeting in Boston, 10 ACS Scholars spoke about their journeys from childhood to major universities and corporations in two presidential symposia, “Rising Stars in Academe” and “Rising Stars in Industry.” The symposia were sponsored by the Committee on Minority Affairs (CMA) and will be available on ACS Presentations on Demand ( in a few weeks. The academic symposium featured faculty from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Middlebury College, Pomona College, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the University of California, San Diego. The industrial symposium featured scientists, engineers, and executives from BASF, Dow Chemical, Glaxo­SmithKline, Gilead Sciences, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Their personal stories, professional trials and tribulations, and lessons learned are an inspiration for students as well as seasoned professionals.

As I listened to their stories, it brought me back to my years as editor-in-chief of C&EN. I couldn’t resist playing the reporter one more time by asking them: “What is the one thing you would like donors who support this program to know?” The responses poured out. They said the ACS Scholars Program does the following:

Changes lives, one life at a time.
Opens doors.
Provides opportunities, personally and professionally, that would not otherwise have been available.
Gives a competitive advantage by providing meaningful undergraduate research and internships.
Provides mentoring in a way that no other program does.

Reflecting the sentiment of the 10 speakers, tenured associate professor Joshua Figueroa of the University of California, San Diego, (ACS Scholar, 1998–2000) said, “The ACS Scholars Program made a huge difference in my life. I would not be where I am today without it.”

Similarly, Tashica Williams Amirgholizadeh, who is a patent litigation attorney for Gilead, recalled the day as a sophomore at Baylor University when she and her father sat in the financial aid office crying because they didn’t have the money to pay tuition for the next semester. That very day, the ACS Scholars award came in—and other scholarships followed. Amirgholizadeh went on to earn a B.S. in chemistry with a minor in math from Baylor, a Ph.D. in chemistry from California Institute of Technology, and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

“The ACS Scholars Program made a huge difference in my life.”


Donors to this program are proud. At the joint luncheon in Boston celebrating the scholars sponsored by CMA and Corporation Associates, about 175 people heard corporate donors explain their pride and business case in supporting the ACS Scholars Program. I was honored to recognize Pfizer, which became a National Partner with a first-time gift of $112,000, and Gilead, whose $100,000 donation made it the first to endow a corporate scholarship—the Gilead Scholar award. BASF became a Sustaining Partner with cumulative gifts totaling $250,000.

We also honored Procter & Gamble for its $325,000 pledge, which brings the company’s cumulative gifts to the $1 million Benefactor level. The new ACS Scholars Endowment Fund currently has commitments of more than $2 million as generous members recognize the imperative to continue this effective program. ACS has raised $1 million this year for the program, but more is needed because there are many more gifted applicants to the program than can be currently supported.

A special luncheon treat was hearing from ACS Scholars alumni Carolina Pelaez, who graduates in December with a degree in chemical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, and Ian Henry, who earned a Ph.D. and is now at Procter & Gamble. Pelaez was sponsored in the ACS Scholars Program by BASF and spent her summer at the company’s largest U.S. facility in Geismar, La. After the Boston meeting, she wrote me, “I have accepted a full-time offer from BASF, and I will be joining the company after my graduation in December! As I mentioned at the luncheon, the Scholars Program has been instrumental in forging the relationship between BASF and myself, and I am sure that without the program I would not have found this company, which in all honesty, fits me like a glove!”

Over the life of the ACS Scholars Program, more than $17 million has been spent, including $9 million from ACS and $8 million from corporate, foundation, and individual contributions. All gifts to the program are tax-deductible and go to support the ACS Scholars; ACS pays the administrative expenses. I invite you to join me in donating to this remarkable program that has been changing the face of chemistry and lives, one life at a time. To learn how you can make a difference, contact Kathy Fleming, director of development, at

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.