Advancing diversity in chemical science fields with ACS
A future materials engineer, an aspiring cosmetics formula researcher, a rising star in the biotechnology industry, and an advancing chemical engineer. Through the American Chemical Society (ACS) Scholars Program, the PPG Foundation invested in the future aspirations of these four students in the 2019-2020 academic year and supported the Society’s mission to increase the diversity of chemistry professionals.
“The inclusion of diverse people, experiences and ideas leads to the advancement of chemistry as a global, multidisciplinary science,” said LaTrease Garrison, executive vice president, ACS Education Division. “The four aspiring scientists supported by PPG Foundation’s contributions will undoubtedly go on to shape their respective fields and advance the future of chemistry in our world.”
Propelling the PPG ACS Scholars program
Since 1994, the ACS Scholars Program has endeavored to increase the diversity of chemistry professionals by providing scholarships to college students from groups underrepresented in the field. Sharing this same vision, the PPG Foundation partnered with the program in 1997 and has since awarded scholarships each year to encourage diversity in the chemical sciences and maximize the creative thinking needed to tackle global challenges ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to the need for affordable renewable energy technologies.
PPG has also invested additional resources to encourage the personal growth and development of its ACS Scholars. Over the last 23 years, more than 50 PPG employees have served as dedicated mentors to help these aspiring scientists explore chemical sciences research areas and future career opportunities. Many PPG-funded ACS Scholars engaged in substantive internships with the company, and PPG enabled others to attend professional conferences and networking events
Trinity Horton Hale, a PPG ACS Scholar from 1998 to 2002, started her career as a research chemist at a global chemical and specialty materials company. For the past 15 years, she has risen through the ranks at the company, taking on process, application and new business development roles. In remembering her experience as an ACS Scholar, Hale reflected on the impact of her PPG mentor.
“When I was accepted into the ACS Scholars Program, I had no idea how it would set me up for future success. I was assigned an amazing PPG mentor, Barb Piccirilli, who was a constant cheerleader and source of support. She set up internship experiences at the company every summer and winter break during my undergraduate years. A global leader and working mother of two young kids, she was an incredible role model who showed me that I could achieve anything I wanted to achieve,” said Hale.
Meet the 2019-2020 PPG ACS Scholars:
Opeoluwa Abimbola is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Southern California. He is set to graduate this year. He is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), and the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS). Opeoluwa is currently interning for Micron Technology in technology development. He plans to attend graduate school to pursue a degree in materials engineering.
Destiny Durante is a senior at Pennsylvania State University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. She is the President and Social Media Chair for the Loving Our Curly Kinky & Straight Hair organization at Penn State and a member of The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). Destiny was awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2019 and also received the Pfizer Award. Destiny currently works for Penn State as a cosmetic formula researcher. After graduating this year, Destiny plans to earn a PhD in toxicology. “As an ACS Scholar, I was able to meet my Penn State mentor Dr. Squire Booker, who helped me find my research lab on campus, secure summer research opportunities, apply for fellowships, and choose a graduate program. Through the ACS Scholars Program, I was exposed to the many areas of chemistry, which helped to shape my career goal to become a cosmetic chemist.” – Durante
Amanda Hernandez is a senior at the University of California Berkeley, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering. She is a member of the Society of Women Engineers, Engineers for a Sustainable World, the Berkeley Investment Group, and the Hispanic Engineers & Scientists organization. Amanda currently works for the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) as an undergraduate researcher. After graduation this year, she plans to earn a PhD in chemical engineering or chemical biology before working in the biotechnology industry.
Michael Rivas Valadez is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of California Berkeley, and is set to graduate in 2020. He is a Senior Advisor and Media Chair for the UC Berkeley Student Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). Michael currently works at Berkeley Lab as a research affiliate with the Balsara Group. His work entails “working in a dry box to create lithium pouch cells with different composition electrolytes for use in testing with potentiostat” and “using previously established test methods to characterize the transference number in a block copolymer electrolyte by measuring specific variables at different salt concentrations.” After graduation, Michael plans to enter the workforce before attending graduate school. “Because of the ACS Scholars scholarship, I had to work only one or two part-time jobs throughout my entire undergraduate career to meet my financial needs. This allowed me to maintain a strong academic focus, and I am now graduating from college without any debt. I hope to be able to give back to the ACS Scholars Program in the future and lift the financial burden off of students like me as they begin their undergraduate degrees.” – Rivas Valadez