Author Archives: Heidi

Mentoring and more mentoring! Workshop 3/30 at 5 in CHB 102

WCS is excited to announce the new chemistry department peer mentorship network! The goal of this program is to help incoming grad students with questions about starting grad school (research, classes, moving to Seattle, work/life balance etc.) as well as integrating them into the department when they arrive.

We’re currently recruiting both mentors and mentees! If you’re a current chemistry graduate student, check out our mentor sign-up survey and expectations here. If you’re an incoming UW chemistry grad student, check out our mentee sign-up survey and expectations here. We’ll be pairing mentors and mentees based on survey responses and would love to have as many people involved in the program as possible.

To kick off our mentoring program and start broader discussions about mentoring, we’re having a workshop on Wednesday, March 30th at 5:00 pm in CHB 102. Entitled “I’m an experienced graduate student?! Tips and advice for sharing your knowledge”, this event will feature a brief presentation by Janice DeCosmo, the Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Research. Following this, we’ll have a panel discussion with Janice as well as Julie Cass and Dr. Lindsey Madison, both experienced graduate peer mentors. Also, there will be pizza! You can RSVP on facebook and invite your friends here.

Whether you’re pursuing a career in academia, industry, or something else, mentoring is an important skill related to management, leadership, and teamwork. Experience with peer mentoring can help you develop these valuable skills for working with people. Plus, understanding both sides of the mentor/mentee relationship can help you manage your relationships with your advisor and other mentors. We’ll keep collecting and sharing more resources beyond our mentor network and workshop, so stay tuned!


Member meeting: Friday 2/19 at 9:30 am in CHB 339

There will be a WCS member meeting next Friday, February 19th at 9:30 am in CHB 339. Feel free to join us for all or part of the meeting! Everyone is welcome.

We have lots of topics to discuss, including:

  • The second annual WCS lecture, featuring Allison Campbell, which is on Thursday, February 25th at 4:00 pm in BAG 154
  • Preparing the Chemistry CSI and Mars rover workshops for the Seattle Expanding Your Horizons conference on Saturday, March 12th
  • Other upcoming outreach events at Lakeridge Elementary on Mercer Island, the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair, and the Shoreline STEM Festival
  • The peer mentoring program WCS is developing for first-year grad students
  • The Little Free Library, which now exists in Rab’s Room but could use more books and decorations
  • Making some amendments to the WCS constitution
  • Events for spring quarter???

Please let us know if you have any questions, and especially if you have any ideas for what kinds of events you’d like to see during spring quarter. Hope to see you there!

Second Annual WCS Lecture

We are excited to announce that the second annual WCS lecture will take place on Thursday, February 25th at 4:00 pm in Bagley 154. This year’s speaker is Dr. Allison Campbell, Acting Associate Laboratory Director for Earth and Biological Sciences at PNNL and president-elect of the American Chemical Society. Her talk is entitled “Don’t be a passenger:  Tips and advice for driving your career in science”; the abstract is below.

“A career in science can be both highly rewarding and highly challenging – often at the same time.  Challenges include external factors such as both real and perceived biases, work life balance, stereotypes, and hostile work environments, and internal factors such as imposter syndrome,  self-image, and self-confidence.  Rewards include scientific discoveries, new innovations, advancement of scientific knowledge, mentoring, collaborating, and participation in something bigger than yourself.  Navigating the challenges can be difficult and frustrating.  Here, I discuss my personal experiences, lessons learned the hard way, observations, and general philosophy based upon my 25 years in science.”

The WCS lecture series goes beyond chemistry at UW to highlight inspirational women in STEM and their accomplishments and experiences. You can read about the inaugural WCS lecture, featuring Harvey Mudd President and Microsoft board member Dr. Maria Klawe, on our blog here.

WCS members will also have the opportunity to attend an informal Q&A session with Dr. Campbell before her lecture. Stay tuned to the WCS mailing list for more details!


Lunch discussion: How do people react to reports of gender bias in STEM fields?

Our lunch discussion series (Thursdays at noon in CHB 339) continues! Contact me (hdnelson at or Teresa (tmheard at if you’d like to join our email list or access the schedule, or if you have a topic suggestion.

This week, we talked about a recently published study (Handley, Brown, Moss-Racusin, Smith; PNAS 2015, 112, 13201-13206) investigating how people react to evidence of gender bias. The authors showed that men view studies demonstrating gender bias less favorably than women do, a finding which has important implications for anyone interested in combating bias in STEM fields.

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Resources for undergrads applying to grad school

Level Up! Moving on to Graduate School: This guide and worksheet (written by Olivia Lenz, UW materials science & engineering graduate student) walks through the entire grad school application process, from choosing where to apply to accepting an offer.

UW Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships, and Awards: While this office focuses on scholarships and fellowships, they offer workshops and materials to help with writing personal statements, building a resume or CV, and asking for letters of recommendation – all of which are also relevant for grad school applications.

American Chemical Society: The ACS provides several chemistry-specific resources, such as this “Planning for Graduate Work in Chemistry” guide, as well as more general links.

The ACS Directory of Graduate Research: This database includes a ton of information on chemistry professors and departments, and is searchable by research field, location, and gender. It’s a great place to start looking for potential research advisors.

Trends in Ph. D. Productivity and Diversity in Top-50 U.S. Chemistry Departments: An Institutional Analysis: This study, published in the Journal of Chemical Education in 2014, includes lots of interesting data about department size and representation of women and underrepresented minorities in Ph. D. programs over the past few decades. The University of Washington ranks #2 among these departments in the percentage of Ph. D. degrees granted to women between 2005 and 2009!

The Grad Cafe: The blog posts and discussion forum on this site offer perspectives from all different fields, from both prospective and current grad students. There’s also a database of grad admissions decisions to help figure out when you might hear back from your programs.

The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report both provide a lot of general information on the grad school application process, as well as program rankings – but don’t take the rankings too seriously! There are many different ways to rank programs, and individual experiences and outcomes vary a lot within each program.

Feel free to add your own links in the comments, or email us at!

For undergrads: Personal statement feedback & grad app workshop

Attention, physical science undergraduate students who are applying to graduate school! Would you like to get helpful feedback on your personal statement or other parts of your application? Several current graduate students and WCS members have volunteered to read and provide feedback on grad school application essays. Whether you need help with putting together a cohesive story that will stand out to the admissions committee, making yourself sound awesome, or just proofreading and grammar, we’re happy to look over your essays and answer your questions. We’ve all been there, and now we want to pay it forward.

To get feedback on your essay, just email it to Feel free to include any other information (e.g., where you’re applying) or questions as well. If you’d prefer to remain anonymous, please specify that in your email, and we’ll make sure we remove your personal information before sending your draft to a grad student. Otherwise, we’ll connect you directly with a grad student (or two) and you can choose to discuss your essay via email or meet up in person.

We’re also hosting a graduate school application workshop on Tuesday, October 20th at 5:30 pm in CHB 102! This event is co-sponsored by Free Radicals/PLU, the undergraduate chemistry club. Professors Rob Synovec (director of the UW chemistry graduate program) and Brandi Cossairt (member of the admissions committee) will provide the admissions committee’s perspective on what makes a good application, and a panel of current graduate students will discuss how they made their applications successful. Pizza will be provided.

If you can’t attend the workshop, you’re still welcome to submit your personal statement for feedback. We’ll also post tips, tricks, and resources from the event here next week!

Elections and member meeting: Monday 10/12 at 5:00 pm in Rab’s room

Our first member meeting of the academic year will take place next Monday, October 12th at 5:00 in Rab’s room (Bagley 136A, down the short hallway across from classrooms 106 and 108). We’ll be electing new officers for 2015-2016! Any UW graduate student is eligible to run for an officer position (president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, webmaster, and outreach coordinator), and any UW undergraduate student can be the undergraduate liaison. For more information about these positions and their associated responsibilities, you can consult Article IV of the WCS constitution or contact In addition to elections, we’ll also be talking about the STEM-OUT program and our graduate school admissions workshop for undergrads, as well as brainstorming events for the rest of the quarter. Hope to see you there!

Ice cream social Tuesday 9/29!

To kick off the academic year and welcome new graduate students and faculty members to the department, WCS is hosting an ice cream social! This event will take place on Tuesday, September 29th in CHB 102. Ice cream (including non-dairy options) will be available with supplies for sundaes and floats starting at 3:00 pm, and we’ll share some introductions and remarks of welcome at 3:45. Hope to see you there!

We have a lot of other events coming up, including chemistry art outreach at the UW-Bothell Discover STEM Festival, a panel discussion for undergraduates who are applying to grad school, our third birthday party, officer elections for 2015-2016, and much more! To get all of the details, you can subscribe to our members or events mailing list or contact us at

Featuring WCS members involved in STEM-OUT

Here’s a really great article describing the STEM-OUT program, featuring WCS members Joan, Addie, and Scott! STEM-OUT is a partnership between UW and TAF Academy, in which graduate students mentor high schoolers working on senior projects. The goal of the program is to broaden participation in STEM fields among underrepresented minorities. You can find more information about STEM-OUT and request information about applying to be a 2015-2016 mentor here.