Volume 79, Number 23
CENEAR 79 23 pp. 67
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Seeking the best and the brightest from all backgrounds has become a battle cry of chemistry. There are a number of efforts under way, such as the American Chemical Society's Scholars Program, to bring intellectual diversity to the chemical enterprise by enticing minority individuals to take up the profession. But will there be places for them, outside of industry, if they do so
The faculty diversity study was carried out in fall/winter 2000 by four Oklahoma undergraduate science majors. Working under Nelson's direction, the students--Lina Ea, botany/microbiology; Leah Mitchell, chemical engineering; Sheleatha Taylor, chemistry; and Audra Wendt, chemistry--solicited diversity data from the 50 chemistry departments identified by the National Science Foundation as having spent the most money on chemical research. All 50 departments responded.
The results were disturbing, if not surprising. Of the 1,637 tenured/tenure track faculty at the 50 departments, 43 were identified as URMs. There were 22 Hispanics, 1.3% of the total; 18 African Americans, 1.1%; and three Native Americans, 0.2%. Another 100, or 6.1%, were identified as Asians, who are in this context not considered underrepresented.
Even when compared to chemistry Ph.D.s awarded in 199199, the numbers are low. Whites received 78.2% of the Ph.D.s; Asians, 15.9%; Hispanics, 3.0%; African Americans, 2.4%; and Native Americans, 0.4%.
Just over half of the 50 departments, 27, had any URMs at all on their faculty rosters. The University of Washington, Seattle, led the list with four. The Universities of Florida and of Southern California each had three. There were two URMs on the faculties at Arizona State, Florida State, Rutgers,Texas A&M, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, Massachusetts (Amherst), and Oklahoma. Georgia Tech; Ohio State; Purdue; SUNY Buffalo; SUNY Stony Brook; UC Irvine; Georgia; Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Maryland; Michigan; Minnesota, Minneapolis; Notre Dame; University of Pennsylvania; South Carolina; and Yale each had one URM on their chemistry faculties.
The statistics contained some good news. Hispanics were represented on all rungs of the academic ladder--12 held the rank of assistant professor, six were associate professors, and four were full professors. Compared with other URMs, Nelson notes, more Hispanic faculty are recent hires, 14 of the 22 having received their Ph.D.s since 1991. Between 1991 and 1999, Hispanics received an average of 38 chemistry Ph.D.s per year in the 50 departments. It was perhaps not unexpected news that there were only two Native American full professors and one associate professor, given that Native Americans received an average of 5.3 chemistry Ph.D.s per year between 1991 and 1999.
What was surprising to Nelson and was the worst news from the study was that there were no African American assistant professors at the schools surveyed, despite the fact that blacks received an average of 35.4 Ph.D. degrees per year in 199199, including a high of 56 in 1999. There were six black associate professors and 12 full professors. However, many of the latter are nearing retirement age. With few younger chemists in the pipeline to replace them, Nelson points out, African American chemistry professors are not only not holding their own, they're becoming a vanishing species. Reversing that trend will be difficult.
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