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APRIL 2019    

Prof. Gruebele, alumna Dr. Alveda Williams and Dr. Lloyd Munjanja at the Biennal Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity (photo credit: Jasmin Harris)
Prof. Gruebele, alumna Dr. Alveda Williams and Dr. Lloyd Munjanja at the Biennal Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity (photo credit: Jasmin Harris)


            I: Community Updates
            (a) April was Celebrate Diversity Month
            (b) Diversity and Climate Action Plan
            (c) Student Awards
           II: Upcoming Events
           III: Resources Corner



April was Celebrate Diversity Month

Spring is finally here. And we are excited to see many of our community members get out of the labs and enjoy the warm weather. Congratulations to all our chemistry scientists who participated in the Illinois Marathon weekend races.  

The beginning of spring marks the end of recruitment season. We want to acknowledge the faculty, staff, and students who worked so hard to diversify our department by bringing excellent scientists into our community. Since April was Celebrate Diversity Month, I want to share the current demographic status of our community. We understand that diverse talent is a strategic asset that allows for more effective research and teaching.

We believe in a scientific culture that maintains the highest standards of professionalism, promotes psychological safety and encourages respect for others so that everyone can bring their best creative selves to the Department.

Illinois Chemistry takes great pride in the strength of its current community; however, we cannot afford to be passive in our efforts to increase diversity and inclusion awareness. We want our population here in the department to reflect the demographics of taxpayers that fund our research. 

Diversity & Climate Action Plan updates

Following the two Climate Surveys and creation of an Action Plan and Climate and Diversity Committees (see https://chemistry.illinois.edu/climate), the department is rolling out several new mandatory workshops for our junior faculty, senior faculty, and graduate students. We hope that in-person workshops will be more useful in addressing our cultural challenges than online training. 

Here are some updates: 

(1) For the past three months, our chemistry faculty have been attending the Inclusive Lab Leaders series, a new program by the 21st Century Scientists Initiative at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology. The goal of this program is to empower PIs, new and veteran, to become more effective at managing their research groups. To register or learn more about these workshops. Read more


(2) In January 2019 we sent Action Recommendations to all our faculty to address climate issues in their research groups. A third of our faculty have held group meetings dedicated to discussing climate issues. To learn about the recommendations to faculty. Read more


(3) From the LAS Report, we learned that "About 40% of student and postdoc respondents feel that other students or postdocs have mistreated them. This percentage is higher than the percentage of students who feel they have been treated unfairly by faculty, highlighting concern expressed about student-student peer relationships, not just faculty-student relationships

With that in mind, we created a new course for third-year graduate students who have passed their prelims, CHEM 590C, as a follow-up to CHEM 492. The topics covered in the class include career preparation, sexual harassment in research labs, cultural awareness, and competency, as well as mental health and resilience. The first iteration of the course will run weekly from May 15 - June 12. If you want to learn more, please contact Prof. van der Donk or Dr. Lloyd Munjanja.


(4) An updated policy on Teaching Assistant (TA) Duties which addresses expected and excessive demands, as well as recourse for TAs, was shared. The Budget & Operations Committee vetted and modified the policy based on feedback from the Advisory Committee and DCGSAC. Read More


(5) In progress: Vacation and sick leave policy update for graduate students


(6) In progress: Plans for a one-day Biennal Faculty Retreat focused on best practices in Science Leadership and Management are underway. The first retreat is planned for the end of Spring 2020. 


(7) A climate and diversity town hall meeting for graduate students and postdocs is planned for mid-July 2019.


(8) Both the diversity and climate committees started their meetings at the beginning of this semester. Please feel free to share any climate or diversity concerns you might have with Prof. van der Donk (Climate Committee Chair) or Dr. Lloyd Munjanja (Diversity Committee Chair).


Here I will share work in progress in both the Diversity and Climate Committees: 

   Diversity Committee

(a) Incentives for the community to promote lecture and seminar speaker diversity;

(b) Awards that celebrate community members who are promoting inclusive excellence in the department;

(c) Chemistry Faculty Inclusive Excellence Advocates to help with our recruitment and current cultural climate. Learn more

   Climate Committee  

(a) Creating a low-barrier method of reporting various cultural challenges in the department that might not necessarily meet the legal bar, but negatively impact the community culture. Learn more

(b) Developing a well defined mentoring strategy for new faculty that incorporates best practices in scientific leadership and management training including setting expectations on Community Values & Expectations

(c) Please consider reviewing the LAS 108-page report that informed the Diversity and Action Plan. Since it is a confidential report to the department, the LAS report will not be copied or distributed publicly.

Lloyd Munjanja has the full printed report copy in the office. He also has office hours for graduate students and postdocs interested in viewing the report every Friday, 1-3 PM. Faculty and staff may also make appointments to read the report by contacting Lloyd directly at munjanja@illinois.edu


Graduate Student Awards

(1) 2019 Graduate Student Leadership Award: Our very own Dr. Elizabeth Neumann was recognized for her work in helping address sexual harassment and gender discrimination in chemistry. Read more

(2) NSF GRFP: Three University of Illinois chemistry students won the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship: Alison Wallum (Gruebele & Lyding groups), Anand Poozhikunnel (Zimmerman group), and Rianna Greer (Fout group). Also an incoming first-year graduate student, Nafisa Ibrahim (materials area), won the NSF GRFP award. Read more

(3) The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans: Daniel Najera (Fout group) was one of the 30 individuals selected to each receive up to $90,000 towards their graduate education. This year’s Fellows were selected from a pool of 1,767 applicants from across the country. Read more

(4) 2019 American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry Graduate Fellowship: Zachary Gossage (Rodríguez-López group) has received the 2019 American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry Graduate Fellowship and has been invited to speak about his research at a future ACS National conference. Read more





1. Empowering Women in Organic Chemistry

Friday, June 28, University of Pennsylvania

The first annual Empowering Women in Organic Chemistry Conference will be on Friday, June 28, 2019, at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. This one-day event will include talks from organic chemists in industry and academia, a dynamic poster session, panel discussions, and many opportunities for networking. Professor Geraldine (Geri) Richmond (University of Oregon), past-president of AAAS, National Medal of Science awardee, and co-founder of COACh, will give the keynote lecture. The intended audience is women from all sectors of organic chemistry, at all career stages, including graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and professionals; however, we welcome anyone interested in attending. Read more

2. Chemistry Alumni Panel Discussion on Entrepreneurship

Friday May 9, 3-5 PM, 102 CLSL-B: Charles G. Miller Auditorium

Interested in pursuing a career in entrepreneurship? Join us to hear Illinois chemistry and chemical engineering alumni share their experiences and provide advice. Read more

3. The Midwest Retreat for Diversity in Chemistry

July 19 - 21, 2019 Luther College, Iowa

Prof. Cathy Murphy will be the keynote speaker at the retrea.

Come advance your career through networking, leadership training, and workshops with a diverse group of professionals from industry, government,
academia, national labs, and more at the MWRDC. 
Build your presentation skills in a welcoming, inclusive environment to advance your chemistry career. Enjoy fun after-hour activities with speakers and fellow attendees in the scenic Decorah. Open to chemistry graduate students and post-doctoral scholars

All-inclusive registration fee: $120
REGISTER by June 24th at: www.mwrdc9.wixsite.com/mwrdc 
Travel awards available

4: FOR FACULTY: Creating sustainable systems to support our work

Friday, May 10, 9:30-11:30 AM, Room 1005 Beckman

In this final session we will reflect on the material we have learned over the previous sessions, and leverage it to build an inclusive research team that gets the best out of everybody. We will go over policy structures like codes of conduct, but also restorative practices for handling conflict, training options for empowering students, and inclusion practices for building equity in science. Read more





1. Need a counselor? 

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Betterhelp connects you with online professional counselors with whom you can establish an ongoing relationship to assist you when facing life’s challenges. Trusted advice, guidance, and counseling for depression, anxiety, relationships, self-esteem, stress, grief, eating disorders and more – all from a licensed therapist. Get help at your own time and at your own pace. Communicate with your therapist as often as you want and whenever you feel it’s needed via text, talk, phone and video. This service is part of your student benefit package and costs you nothing out of pocket (usually valued at $200/month). 

Simply click here to register and get started.

2. Advice to graduate students for dealing with sexual harassment

3. Training yourself to go beyond bias

4. How lab heads can learn to lead

5. Want to become a better mentor? Ask for anonymous feedback