Maya Nilkant

2016 ChemLuminary Award - Best Overall WCC Local Section Award

Blog Post created by Maya Nilkant on Jun 6, 2017

By Jaime Curtis-Fisk


     Congratulations to the Chicago Local Section on receiving the 2016 WCC ChemLuminary award! This award is given to a local section by the Women Chemists Committee to recognize outstanding efforts in promoting women in the chemical sciences. This award serves as a recognition of outstanding accomplishment and highlights successful programming and initiatives that serve as an example for other sections. The East Central Illinois and Pittsburgh Local Sections were also finalists for the award, having both demonstrated significant accomplishment and impact to their community.

     The Chicago Section WCC’s year included a Nontraditional Chemistry Career Forum to attract women to chemical science careers outside of the box. The students learned about what working chemists can do with their chemistry degrees. The Committee cosponsored an AAUW $tart $mart workshop that provided women with the knowledge and skills for negotiating salaries and benefits in order to receive fair and realistic compensation as they approach the job market. Another activity was a mentoring event at which Chicago Section women mentors talked about their careers and experiences in graduate school and post‐doc positions. The Chicago Section WCC held a Mix & Mingle jointly with Iota Sigma Pi, which featured a Jeopardy‐style game show with chemistry‐based questions. Several women served as liaisons to 38 Chicago‐area colleges and universities, publicizing activities of the Chicago Section WCC. At ChemDay 2015, the Chicago Section WCC had a table with 12 posters & activities, including a Periodic Table jigsaw puzzle that students finished during the event. Tom Lehrer's song of the Elements played nonstop while students used WCC‐inspired & decorative inkstamps saying "GIRLS = GREAT CHEMISTS", "I WANT TO BE A CHEMIST", and "GIRLS + CHEMISTRY = FUN". Careers in chemistry and their educational requirements were discussed with students.

     Each year, the East Central Illinois WCC organizes a day camp at the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign. Since its inception in 2008, “Bonding with Chemistry: A Day for Girls” has invited middle school girls from the area and around the state to participate in a full day of chemistry related activities led by graduate students at the university. There are often campers who have enjoyed themselves so much they return for multiple years, which encourages the graduate student volunteers and organizers to keep the experience exciting and new. Students rotate among stations, each with a unique theme related to natural phenomena and chemical principles. A favorite event has been t‐shirt chromatography in which campers e‐dye shirts while learning the principles of liquid chromatography. Participants receive take‐home items, projects, and a lab notebook of all the day’s activities. All of these activities and additional outreach is at no cost to the students in an effort to serve the entire community. In 2015, 90 girls attended the camp, with nearly 50 graduate student volunteers, and two central organizers. Overall, this day camp has now reached hundreds of middle school girls (some of whom are now well into college!) and graduate students.

     The Greater Pittsburgh Area WCC takes an inclusive view of the events and programs implemented to have the most extensive impact on attracting, developing, promoting, and advocating for women in the chemical sciences. The following is only few of the 2015 sponsored events: A Careers in Chemistry Symposium; a Couture, Cosmetics, and Chemistry Workshop (geared towards 7‐10th grade students and also provided for Girl Scouts); and a STEM‐ulate Success Science Showcase (poster session for high school students to learn the art of scientific presentations and undergraduates to learn evaluative skills by serving as judges).