Women Chemists of Color: Getting to the Table Symposium

With support from the National Science Foundation*, the American Chemical Society (ACS) hosted a Women Chemists of Color Summit at the 240th ACS National Meeting in Boston. Learn more about the Summit or ACS Women Chemists of Color initiatives.

As part of the Summit, the Women Chemists of Color: Getting to the Table symposium addressed early-career barriers and targeted undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral women chemists of color. A video recording of the symposium is available here.

Symposium Program

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 — 8:15 am–11:30 am
Sheraton Boston Hotel, Back Bay Ballroom B — Boston, MA

Sponsored by PRES; Cosponsored by CMA, PROF, JSD, WCC, YCC
Organizers: Gloria Thomas and Zakiya Wilson


Speaker Biographies

Julia Chan
Professor, Department of Chemistry, Louisiana State University

Julia Chan attended Baylor University where she earned her B.S. in Chemistry in 1993. She then pursued a Ph.D. in Chemistry at UC Davis working with Professor Susan M. Kauzlarich working on transition metal zintl phases where she discovered a new family of magnetoresistance materials. After graduating in 1998, Dr. Chan was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology Materials Science and Engineering Lab working on dielectric materials. Dr. Chan began her career in fall 2000 in the Department of Chemistry at Louisiana State University (LSU), where her research has focused on the crystal growth of novel intermetallics and oxides. Her many awards include a Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities, an NSF Career Award, an American Crystallographic Association Margaret C. Etter Early Career Award, a College of Basic Science Graduate and Teaching Award, an LSU Distinguished Faculty Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, an American Chemical Society Exxon Mobil Faculty Fellowship in Solid State Chemistry, and she is one of twelve profiled in the 2002 C&EN “Women in Chemistry” series, highlighting women making an impact in the chemical sciences.

Robyn Hannigan
Chair, Environmental Earth and Ocean Sciences Department, University of Massachusetts at Boston

Robyn Hannigan is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Geological Society of America, an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, and the 2007 recipient of the American Chemical Society Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences.  Her research and student mentoring have been highlighted by SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science), AAAS, and the NSF.  Dr. Hannigan’s circuitous route to a career in geochemistry began at the College of New Jersey where she earned her B.S. in Biology.  She completed her doctoral degree in Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Rochester focusing on high and low temperature trace element geochemistry.  During her postdoctoral fellowships at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Old Dominion University she leveraged her expertise in geochemistry into collaborative research projects with biologists and oceanographers. Her current research focuses on the study of the chemical record of climate change preserved in estuarine and ocean sediments and biominerals.  She and her students hold several patents in areas of sample introduction technologies for mass spectrometric identification of important metals in biological samples.  Dr. Hannigan started a company with former students, GeoMed Analytical, which uses geochemical methods to study human health and food resource issues such as food sourcing and metals in disease treatment and diagnosis. 

Malika Jeffries-El
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Iowa State University

Malika Jeffries-El took an interest in science after taking her first chemistry class at Brooklyn Technical High, an honors public high school in New York City. She then attended Wellesley College, where she completed a B.S. in Chemistry, and George Washington University (Washington, D.C.) where she obtained her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Organic and Polymer Chemistry, respectively. After a postdoctoral fellowship under the supervision of Dr. Richard D. McCullough (Carnegie Mellon University), she joined the faculty in the Chemistry Department at Iowa State University.

Her research efforts focus on the design and synthesis of conjugated polymers and the investigation of these materials for use in a number of applications (e.g. photovoltaic cells, field effect transistors and organic light emitting diodes). She has received two NOBCChE (National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers) awards — the Eastman Kodak Dr. Theophilus Sorrell Award in 2000 and the Agilent Professional Development Award in 2008. In addition, Dr. Jeffries-El has also received the Emerald Honors for most promising minority scientist (Science Spectrum Magazine), an Untenured Faculty Award (3M), a Gregory L. and Kathleen C. Geoffroy Faculty Fellowship, 2005-2009, and an NSF CAREER Award, 2009-2014.

Kristala Jones Prather
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Kristala Jones Prather is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. She received an S.B. degree from MIT in 1994 and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and worked for four years in BioProcess Research and Development at the Merck Research Labs (Rahway, NJ). Her interests are centered on the design and assembly of recombinant microorganisms for the production of small molecules, with additional efforts in novel bioprocess design approaches. Her research combines the traditions of metabolic engineering with the practices of biocatalysis to expand and optimize the biosynthetic capacity of microbial systems. A particular focus is the elucidation of design principles for the production of unnatural organic compounds within the framework of the nascent field of synthetic biology.

Prather is a recipient of a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty Award (2004), an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2005), a Technology Review “TR35” Young Innovator Award (2007), and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2010). She has been recognized for excellence in teaching with an Outstanding Faculty Award for Undergraduate Teaching in the Department of Chemical Engineering (2006). Dr. Prather is also an investigator in the multi-institutional Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC) funded by the National Science Foundation.

Shu Shu
Engineer, New Business Development, Shell International Exploration and Production

Shu Shu works as an engineer in Shell International Exploration and Production Company. Her job involves performing techno-economic evaluations for Shell’s projects and developing new business opportunities. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Shanghai Jiaotong University in China (2003) and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology (2007). At Georgia Tech, Dr. Shu’s research was focused on developing environmentally friendly technologies for oil and gas production. She continues her effort in green technologies by contributing to multiple cross-industrial projects in CO2 capture and sequestration, bio-ethanol from second generation biomass and production, hydrogen from renewable sources, and membranes for offshore natural gas purification. Dr. Shu is also actively involved in Shell’s recruitment process. She highly enjoys interacting with students and she hopes to use her own experience to help students transitioning from academia to industrial positions.

Linette M. Watkins
Associate Professor and Undergraduate Advisor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Texas State University-San Marcos

Linette M. Watkins is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Texas State University—San Marcos. She received her B.S. degree in Biochemistry from Trinity University (1989) and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from University of Notre Dame (1996). After completing a postdoctoral appointment at Texas A&M University, she joined the faculty at Texas State in 1997. Her research focuses on understanding the mechanism of enzymes involved in the bacterial desulfurization of fossil fuels. She is actively involved in promoting early involvement of students in undergraduate research, and using undergraduate research as a tool for the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in the chemical sciences. Over the last thirteen years at Texas State, she has mentored over 80 students. She is an active member of the American Chemical Society and has served in leadership roles in American Chemical Society local sections, divisions, and national committees.

Sharon L. Kennedy
Technical Associate, Global Toothbrush Division R&D, Colgate-Palmolive Company

Sharon Kennedy received her B.S. degree in Chemistry from North Carolina A&T State University in 1996. She matriculated to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she completed graduate work under the direction of Professors Michael Rubinstein and Joseph DeSimone in physical polymer chemistry. She received her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 2000 and then went on to be awarded a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the Polymer Division.

In 2002, she joined Colgate Palmolive as a research scientist working in advanced technology in Research and Development. While at Colgate Palmolive she has worked in a number of diverse research and development, and leadership positions. These include Manager of the Surfactant Science Laboratory, Project Leader in Innovation for an international group in Liege, Belgium and presently, Technical Associate in the Global Toothbrush Division. Sharon has also served as Vice Chair and Chair of Colgate’s Black Action Committee, and captain of both the Louisiana State University and NOBCChE (National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers) Recruiting Teams. Sharon’s leadership competencies include Planning, Strategy and Execution, Communicating Effectively, and Being Results Orientated.

Sharon enjoys spending time with her family and husband (Dr. Alvin Kennedy), carpentry, woodworking, foreign traveling, sightseeing, wine tasting, meeting diverse people, and competition in any form.

*This material is based upon work supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation under Grant #1027608. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.