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   MAY 2020 ISSUE  

    I: Community Updates
          Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month
    II: Community News           
         Department Demographics Update
         Out In Chemistry Organization
         Q&A with New Faculty Members
         Marina Philip (PhD, '20) an AAAS Fellow
         COVID-19 Research Projects
    III: Upcoming Events
          Out In Chemistry Meet and Greet
          Virtual Graduation Celebration
    IV: Resources 
          Article: Why do we blame the marginalized in pandemics?
          Eight Ways to Deal with Trauma During the Coronavirus Pandemic
          New Title IX Regulations Under Review


 Picture of Eunice S. Wu and her father, Jasen Su.
 Eunice S. Wu and her father, Jasen Su, before she boarded a plane to begin her studies in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Eunice S. Wu Memorial Scholarship: One Woman's Path to Chemistry at Illinois

More than 60 years ago, Eunice (Su) Wu left her home in Taiwan for the United States to study chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where her father had received his Ph.D.

The U of I quickly became a second home to Eunice, who went on to earn her master’s degree from the Department of Chemistry in 1961.

“The University of Illinois had been our mother's first home away from home and helped her adjust to her new American life,” said Vivian Wu Wong, Eunice’s daughter.

As we celebrate Asian Pacific American heritage this month, it offers the perfect opportunity to remember and honor Eunice, whose birthday is this month, May 26.

After her passing several years ago, her family established the Eunice S. Wu Memorial Scholarship in 2015. Since the 2016-17 academic year, this scholarship has been annually awarded to undergraduate Asian American women in the Department of Chemistry. Read more about Eunice's path to Illinois and how her scholarship fund impacts women in chemistry today.




Percentage of incoming domestic URM graduate students increases

Despite complications from COVID-19 toward the end of the graduate student recruiting season, the Department of Chemistry fared well again this year with 60 students (including one deferral from 2019) accepting offers.

One highlight is that the department had its highest percentage (23 percent) of domestic underrepresented minority students who accepted offers. As illustrated in the chart, the percentage of domestic URM students who applied, visited, received offers, and accepted were all up this year. And the department increased fellowships to URM students this year by more than 150 percent.

Of the 59 graduate students who accepted offers this spring, the number includes 37 males and 21 females (36 percent). And 12 of the total are international students, and 11 (19 percent) of the total, which includes international students, are underrepresented minority students.

Head shot of Marya OrnelasMarya Ornelas, from Castrol Valley, CA, is one of our incoming URM graduate students. She studied at Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges which is a consortium of liberal arts schools in Southern California, and majored in biochemistry.

Marya will receive a Sloan Scholar grant that's funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to support underrepresented racial/ethnic minority students. She also will receive a graduate college fellowship.

Marya said she is looking forward to building meaningful relationships with peers and mentors in the Department of Chemistry and learning about how science can facilitate the social change in our communities.

“I chose UIUC because it immediately stood out to me as a school that genuinely valued bringing equity and diversity into science,” Marya said. “The outpouring of support I received from current students and faculty members when I was making my decision really made my decision for me. It's a school with research that really excites me and with a community that I would be proud to be a part of."

 Out In Chem logo showing glass tubes with various colors

Out In Chem launching website, logo, activities

On May 14, the newly-organized Out In Chem organization will host a virtual meet-and-greet event to introduce the group to the Department of Chemistry and talk about what the members would like to provide as an organization.

For years, the group has operated in an unofficial capacity, hosting LGBTQ+ socials for members of the department, providing a space for members of the shared community of graduate students and postdocs to meet one another and establish connections.

Now, Out In Chem is an official organization, and this spring, members have created a logo, started building a website and begun plans for a variety of events, starting with the meet-and-greet, which will be an informal and fun opportunity to get to know each other and discusses future plans. The group will soon send an e-mail invitation to the entire department.

The group mission is to promote and advocate for the interests of the LGBTQ+ members of the UIUC chemistry department by organizing events, supporting students, and showcasing positive role models in the scientific community. All LGBTQ+ and allied graduate students and postdocs are welcome to the group's public events. Contact OIC at outinchemuiuc@gmail.com and look for more information about this new group in the June newsletter.

 Head shot of Mikael Backlund

Q&A with new faculty member, Mikael Backlund

Here's a little more about Mikael Backlund, Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who starts this fall after completing his post-doctoral work at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. You can read more about him on the department website.

Where did you grow up? Garden Grove, California.

Hobbies? My hobbies include listening to comedy podcasts and following Anaheim Ducks hockey. In the past year or so, I've gotten into playing online chess. I also recently started watching pro wrestling regularly again after a decades-long hiatus.

Favorite reading material, food, place to travel? Most of my leisure reading material is nonfiction about comedy or biographies of scientists. I love all kinds of food, though my spice tolerance has fallen off a cliff since I turned 30. My dad is from Sweden, so we would travel there often to visit family when I was growing up.

When did you know you wanted to be a scientist? In Mr. Bilhartz's 10th-grade chemistry class. This was the first time that science felt like something more than memorizing facts. The logic and problem-solving aspects of science came into focus, and it was very fun and exciting.

 Head shot of Nicholas Jackson

Q&A with new faculty member, Nicholas Jackson

Here's a little more about Nicholas Jackson, assistant scientist, Center for Molecular Engineering & Materials Science Division, Argonne National Laboratory, who starts in the spring semester 2021. You can read more about him on the department website.

Where did you grow up? Northern San Diego County.

Hobbies? In college, I played mandolin and guitar in a bluegrass band that gigged around the state of Connecticut.  When I have free time, I like to keep up with playing, listening, and going to concerts (bluegrass, country, jazz, folk). I have a serious soft spot for early-career Willie Nelson and Steve Goodman.

Favorite reading material, food, place to travel? My non-science reading time is pretty evenly split between fiction (Vonnegut, Catch-22, Crichton are some favorites) and non-fiction (I have recently been on a kick reading scientist biographies from the quantum mechanics/Manhattan Project era). My two favorite foods are Mexican and Indian. My wife Caroline and I like hiking and wildlife, so our travels are often themed around these topics.

Anything about you that no one would guess? My wife and I would like to own ducks.

When did you know you wanted to be a scientist? Honestly, my mom has a homework assignment from fourth grade where I started to my teacher that I wanted to get a Ph.D. in Physics when I grow up, so it runs pretty deep.

 Head shot of Marina Philip

Graduate Student Marina Philip to write about science as an AAAS Mass Media Fellow

While a graduate student in Professor Jonathan Sweedler's group, Marina Philip wrote articles for this newsletter, for the Department of Chemistry and for Chembites, one of a group of science "bites" websites dedicated to explaining recently published research to undergraduate students as well as the public. Marina will spend 10 weeks this summer writing about science issues at the Las Vegas Review-Journal as a Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellow selected by the American Association of the Advancement of ScienceRead more 


Chemistry researchers contributing in many ways to combat COVID-19 pandemic

As the spring semester winds down, researchers in the Department of Chemistry have been ramping up their efforts to combat COVID-19, applying their expertise to this healthcare crisis in a variety of ways. Several faculty members are involved in new and ongoing projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more




Out In Chem Virtual Meet and Greet

On May 14, the Out In Chem organization will host a virtual meet and greet. More details will be announced in an e-mail invitation that will be sent to everyone in the Department of Chemistry. 

Virtual Graduation Celebration 

Join the virtual celebration to help congratulate our amazing #Illinois2020 graduates. The virtual event will premiere live at 12 p.m. CST, Saturday, May 16.




What drives us to blame the marginalized for epidemics?

Rana Hogarth, a history professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, recently explained in an Illinois News Bureau story what drives some people to blame the marginalized for epidemics. Hogarth, who teaches the history of Western medicine and African American history, said epidemics can trigger so much anxiety, and people want to gain control by trying to make sense of it. Historically, blaming the marginalized served the purpose of explaining disease in a way that conformed to a specific worldview and rationalized and brought a semblance of order to a world turned upside down. Targeting groups to blame is often also a result of underlying social or political tensions. Read more

Eight Ways to Deal with Trauma During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has created a new normal, and we are making adjustments that present stress that can differ from our regular day-to-day stress. Yet, we may not have our standard ways of coping, like going to the gym, socializing with friends, or attending a concert. Read more

New Title IX Regulations Released by the U.S. Department of Education

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign officials sent a mass mailing on May 6, stating that university officials are reviewing new regulations to guide the application of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects persons from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Read more