My research group (Glycoworld) aspires to be a diverse and inclusive community of highly professional chemists. I am proud that we have always been at the forefront of implementing and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are a part of a large urban university in the 2.8 million St. Louis metropolitan area with 13,000 students. A large fraction of the student body consists of underrepresented minorities. We serve large African American, Hispanic, and immigrant (mainly Bosnian) populations by providing excellent learning experiences and leadership opportunities to all our students. The influence of our diverse student body on the region upon graduation is immense. Many of our alums work in the St. Louis region at Ameren, Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, Bayer, Boeing, BJC Healthcare, Emerson, Express Scripts, General Motors, Mallinckrodt, Millipore Sigma, Peabody Energy, Pfizer. Beyond the regional impact, our graduates work in all 50 states and 154 countries.
The undergraduate programs in the Department of Chemistry are in many ways a microcosm of the University. For example, there are consistently more than 200 undergraduate chemistry / biochemistry/ chemical biology majors. In any semester, there are typically around 60-70 undergraduate chemistry majors engaged in research. Mentoring undergraduate and graduate research students has been the key mission of my research group. The Glycoworld has a successful track record in recruiting and mentoring students from all backgrounds regardless of their race, social and economic status, previous education, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and identity, nationality, religion, marital status, age, and learning styles. Sixty-one undergraduate students participated as members of my research group in the past, and more than half of them have continued their study in a doctoral or a professional program. In addition, seven undergraduate students are currently pursuing undergraduate research projects under my supervision.
While we are committed to fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all students, we are also striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have previously prevented the full participation of some historically under-served populations. The Glycoworld has been a very active participant in the summer research opportunities for high school students. In total, 5 high school students have participated as members of my research group. I make sure that all Glycoworld members feel valued and respected by their peers without any bias based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, or age. All our summer trainees moved on to pursue college degrees at prestigious institutions including UMSL, SLU, Purdue, and MIT.
A similar approach is taken towards our graduate students. Twenty-three PhD dissertations (13 females) have been completed. In addition, seven PhD students (five females) are currently pursuing doctoral work under my supervision. While making efforts dedicated to bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into graduate education, we acknowledge that providing equal access to training and resources is the key for student success. All new students joining the lab receive training by my post-doctoral associates or senior graduate students in the methods and techniques of synthetic chemistry and in major research instrumentation regardless of their prior education and experience.
We try to make every effort in providing adequate training regardless of how long it may take for individual students coming from different research, educational or social backgrounds. Whenever is possible, we strive to accommodate individual styles, habits, work ethics, and personal preferences to make students even more successful, both in the classroom and in research. The thorough individual training, combined with the individual approach, assures that students are successful at the later stages of their graduate research. These experiences also prepare our students for leading positions in academia and industry.
The Glycoworld also provides opportunities to its members and visitors to engage, learn, and grow through interactions with people from different backgrounds. Our group members develop a deeper understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion in our profession and our society. It is my belief that our efforts enable excellence, innovation, and transformative action in current and future group members.