Campus Life

UWF student excels through Chemistry Scholars Program

The University of West Florida is encouraging high-achieving chemistry students to pursue doctoral studies through the Chemistry Scholars Program. Hailey Egido-Betancourt, a sophomore Chemistry Scholar, recently attended the prestigious DOW-MIT ACCESS Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She was the first UWF student to participate in the weekend program this September, which introduces talented sophomores, juniors and seniors to the benefits of a graduate education in chemistry, chemical engineering and materials science. Students are advised on how to best compile a competitive graduate school application and are required to present a research oral presentation to MIT faculty and graduate students. Egido-Betancourt was accepted into the Chemistry Scholars program in January and has been conducting research with Dr. Karen Molek, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.

Hailey Egido-Betancourt

“This experience was eye-opening for me, because I was unsure of what to expect from graduate school,” Egido-Betancourt said. “Now I look forward to visiting other graduate schools and eventually earning my doctorate degree.”

Egido-Betancourt said being involved in the UWF Chemistry Scholars Program has been a rewarding experience.

“The Chemistry Scholars program has provided me with scholarships and leadership experience,” she said. “It has also given me opportunities to develop as a scientist and to meet great scientists throughout the country.”

The UWF Chemistry Scholars Program was established in September 2011 to recruit and retain high-achieving chemistry students and to increase the number of chemistry students pursuing PhD or MD-PhD degrees, both with an emphasis on under-represented students. Students involved in the program meet monthly to hear guest speakers discuss summer research programs and post-baccalaureate opportunities, receive career advice, participate in peer-to-peer mentoring and receive professional development and mentoring from faculty in the Department of Chemistry.

The learning community is modeled after the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, which was established by Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program directed by Dr. Michael Summers, a UWF alum. The program incorporates four key components: academic and social integration; knowledge and skill development; support and motivation; and monitoring and advising.

Since the UWF Chemistry Scholars Program was established, the number of under-represented chemistry students pursuing PhD or MD-PhD degrees has increased from 2 percent during the 2009-2012 academic years to 26 percent in 2012-2013.

“The success of the Chemistry Scholars Program is a direct reflection of our chemistry faculty’s passion to educate students through intense mentoring in combination with our students’ fervent motivation to achieve their goals,” said Karen Molek, assistant professor in the UWF Department of Chemistry. “This combination creates an environment where students learn about research, scholarship and outreach opportunities, how to distinguish themselves from their peers and how to network with scientists at national conferences.”