In honor of Women’s History Month, we recently had the opportunity to ask a few of our female professors about life as a woman in chemistry. Hear what Dr. Lihua Jin, Dr. Wendy Wolbach, and Dr. Caitlin Karver had to say about their experiences as female chemists and what advice they have to offer other young women pursuing a degree or career in chemistry.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman in chemistry? If so, how did you overcome them?
Lihua Jin: My biggest challenge is balancing work and family life. I accept the fact that I have to work more hours and that I don’t have the luxury to devote as much time as I’d have liked to my family. But there is a positive side to being a working woman in the sciences. I am better able to advise my children in school related matters as well as in their career pursuit. I also got to have a career in a field that I absolutely love and wouldn’t exchange for anything else.
Wendy Wolbach: I have experienced many sexist comments as an undergraduate and especially in graduate school, including from my research advisor. I was never bothered by them and generally ignored them. But I did have one professor in graduate school who stated frequently and publicly that he refused to give any female student an A in his class. I needed to take the class to graduate, so I took that as a challenge and I practically killed myself to earn the highest possible grade (exams, research paper). And to his credit, he acknowledged the work and gave me his first A ever to a woman, much to the surprise of his fellow professors. He then went on to publish my research paper (a review article) as his own, but that’s another story!
James Coy-Dibley was a student that many from the Department interacted with even though he wasn’t a chemistry major. He did well in his courses and eventually became a chemistry tutor. Interestingly, James decided to publish a workbook of chemistry material based on his experience as a tutor. Our chair, Dr. Lihua Jin, asked him a few questions about his time at DePaul recently and here are his answers:
1) What has an education at DePaul done for you?
An education from DePaul University provided me with a seamless combination of academic progress and personal achievement, fueled by both the dedication of outstanding faculty and the plethora of opportunities the university offers its students. From day one, the emphasis of DePaul’s faculty focuses on their students’ success, both in and out of the classroom. At DePaul, it is not just a matter of ensuring that the student thrives within the classes and university setting, but, equally, that the student earns a degree and gains experience that will prepare him or her into a successful career after DePaul. The chemistry department at DePaul embodied this approach, with the dedicated professors providing me with both a fantastic education as well as the several opportunities that propelled me to where I am today.
2) What opportunities have you taken advantage of at DePaul/in the chemistry department that has been critical for your growth as a student/tutor?
Hello DePaul Students, Alumni, and Friends!
We just updated the Resources page because ACD NMR software is no longer free, but also because there are two great resources that we wanted to add:
- Endnote is free to DePaul Students, Faculty, and Staff. This is a very powerful reference tracking system. Most of the professors use it when writing their peer-review research journals and similar documents. It can help immensely with paper and report writing. We recommend DePaul students download it and use it. (It’s normally quite expensive).
- Lynda training videos are also free to DePaul Students, Faculty, and Staff. These training videos focus on business, tech, and web skills, and are a great resource for those interested in developing those skills in preparation for a variety of careers. They also have guides on various software such as Excel, Photoshop, and others.
Chemistry faculty member Professor Greg Kharas has been at DePaul for 25 years, and recently sat down to reflect on his experiences. His reflection is really insightful, but rather than write it all here, we are just going to give some highlights. If you want to hear more, you should sit down to a cup of coffee with Dr. Kharas, which is always enlightening. Below are some paraphrased excerpts from his thoughts.
“Driven by passion for research and education I was fortunate to join in 1992 faculty of DePaul University which encouraged and fully supported my innovative approach of introducing a genuine research experience into a classroom setting. Since that time, undergraduate students enrolled in 10 weeks organic chemistry laboratory course (CHE 235) are involved in individual research projects. In this guided discovery research project each student prepares and characterizes a novel organic compound and makes a polymer from it. Students are very excited to apply knowledge of the reactions they learned in the organic chemistry lecture to practical applications since polymers are a main constituent of our bodies (e.g. polynucleic acids and proteins), our food (starch and protein), our clothes (e.g. polyester and nylon), our houses (wood cellulose, paints, and adhesives). Every year the course is developed where students are guided to follow the common steps of any scientific inquiry: literature search and review, experimentak data collection and analysis of data, and discussion of results.
These projects promoting discovery based learning are developed every year to integrate students learning experiences with my research interests – which are the design, syntheses, and characterization of novel structures that could serve as a springboard for the further development of novel materials with new properties and applications. Making a novel compound and polymer, not described in the existing chemical literature, is an exciting project for students, and surprisingly, after all these years, still thrilling for me. When I walk from student to student to congratulate them on their discovery I feel very fortunate to be able to share these moments.
Teaching non-science majors to become science-literate and to understand that science is a way of knowing has always been a part of the mission for the Department of Chemistry. One such course that the department has offered over the years is CHE 104 – Chemicals, Drugs and Living Systems. Students take this course to fulfill their liberal studies program’s scientific inquiry (SI) learning domain requirement.
Dr. Lihua Jin, Chair of the Department, recently visited the class to see firsthand how the students of CHE 104 are doing in learning science as a way of knowing. The course is currently taught by Dr. Gwen Baumann. Dr. Baumann is a professional lecturer who joined the department in the fall of 2016. Having received her education at MIT (B.S.) and the Johns Hopkins University (Ph.D.), taught chemistry and other science subjects for two decades at various colleges and universities, Dr. Baumann brings to the class a wealth of knowledge and effective teaching strategies. The focus of the course is on the molecular structure and function of drugs and their use for common diseases and ailments. Students are learning how to think critically about drugs in the world, including everyday common drugs.
When Dr. Jin visited the class on Wednesday, Feb. 22nd…