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Using Chemistry to Find Cures

Growing up with her father battling diabetes, Fatima Rivas, PhD, dreamed of finding a cure. Today, she heads her own laboratory at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where she researches drug-resistant cancers and uses natural product synthesis to develop new treatments for children’s diseases.

As a current member and alumna of the American Chemical Society’s Scholars Program, Fatima credits ACS with helping her accomplish her professional aspirations. “They show you how you can change the life of a person,” she says. “I wouldn’t have understood the potential chemistry can have without them.”

Moving to Los Angeles from El Salvador as a child, Fatima had limited access to the educational and financial resources necessary for college. However, while working several jobs to support her education as an undergraduate student at California State University (CSU), Dominguez Hills, Fatima became an ACS member and became involved with the ACS student chapter at her school. The ACS members were instrumental in directing her toward organic chemistry and helping her build a support network. “ACS provides access to mentors who can help you navigate the system,” Fatima explains. “Without them, I would have gone a different route.”

Encouraging Involvement with ACS

While striving to improve children’s lives through her work, Fatima never forgets the role ACS played—and still plays—in her success. As chair of the ACS Memphis section, Fatima’s primary goal is to get faculty at local schools more involved with the Society so that they can provide students with additional tools available through ACS programs. She begins in her own lab, where she encourages her staff to attend ACS meetings and shares the benefits of becoming part of the ACS community. “ACS has been there for me throughout my career,” Fatima says. “I am very thankful to ACS and the ACS Scholars Program for their support when I most needed it. My involvement with the ACS is my opportunity to pay it back.”

The ACS Scholars Program

The ACS Scholars Program grants renewable scholarships to underrepresented minority students pursuing an education in the chemical sciences or chemical technology field. The awards can eliminate the need to pursue part-time employment, allowing students to dedicate critical extra time to the lab and their studies. Fatima was awarded a scholarship through the ACS Scholars Program during her junior year at CSU. “The program is outstanding for students who are financially challenged,” she says gratefully.

Fatima Rivas is one of nearly 3,000 ACS Scholars who have been awarded mentoring, financial support and internship opportunities since the program’s inception in 1994. Scholarships range from $2,500 for freshmen to $5,000 for seniors. Donors may contribute all or part of a single scholarship; pledge a renewable scholarship; or sponsor several ACS Scholars.


ACS is designated as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Your donation is tax deductible. Our Federal Tax ID Number is 53-0196572.

Fatima Rivas says, The ACS Scholars Program has been successful at delivering what it promised—ensuring that a diverse pool of students have the opportunity to contribute to the chemistry field."
Fatima Rivas in her lab at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.
Credit: Biomedical Communications, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital

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