Campus Life

UWF ties with Stanford University in American Chemical Society scholarships

As the American Chemical Society scholars program celebrates its 20-year anniversary in 2015, the University of West Florida has the second highest number of ACS scholars in the nation, tying with Stanford University’s nine students, and second only to fifteen at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The ACS Scholars Program was established in 1994 to attract African American, Hispanic and American Indian students considered underrepresented in the chemical sciences to pursue careers in the field. Since 2012, nine UWF students have been recognized with the prestigious award, receiving more than $75,000 in renewable scholarship funds as the result of successful mentoring by the Chemistry department.

“I attribute the trend to the emphasis our faculty has historically put on doing a stellar job mentoring, advising and teaching students,” said Karen Molek, assistant professor of Chemistry who helped establish the UWF Chemistry Scholars program, bringing about an awareness of barriers faced by all students, especially underrepresented students.

“When you take a group of unified, dedicated, collaborative faculty and make them aware of barriers that could be hindering their students, it’s a recipe for success,” Molek explained. “Even among passionate, dedicated faculty, it’s unique to see a group of PhDs who are so willingly to put their own agenda aside to achieve a greater success for their students.” 

ACS Scholars pairs students with academic and professional mentors to give them the opportunity to learn from those who have experienced similar challenges related to ethnicity. These relationships can span entire careers.

As director of UWF Chemistry Scholars, Molek feels grateful to mentor students and work alongside her colleagues to reduce financial barriers for all passionate, talented and hard-working students.

“One of the pinnacles of success in my life is to leverage the resources entrusted to me to maximize the opportunities for our students here at UWF, so when those opportunities come to fruition thereby allowing students to achieve their goals, I am immensely fulfilled,” she said.

The nine UWF Chem Scholar students recognized as ACS Scholars since 2012 include Brandon Colon, Sheneika Jackson, Tia Jarvis, Pristine Kirkconnell, Kyra Murrell, Amanda Tonnaer and Alex Vega, Tashiema Wilson and Chiena Witt.

All are poised for success in their academic and professional careers:

  • Colon was accepted into the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Research Experience for Undergraduate Students this summer and will graduate in May 2016.
  • Jackson is enrolled in a Chemistry PhD program at the University of Georgia with out-of-state tuition remission and an annual stipend.
  • Jarvis received a stipend and full tuition remission to attend the Chemistry PhD program at the University of Notre Dame.
  • Kirkconnell is performing summer research in a Research Experience for Undergraduate Students at University of Wisconsin – Madison and will graduate in May 2016.
  • Murrell received tuition remission, a stipend and an additional merit based recruitment award to attend Penn State.
  • Tonnaer is working in Dr. Tanay Kesharwani’s research lab in the inaugural Summer Undergraduate Research Program at UWF, and will graduate in May 2017.
  • Vega received tuition remission, a stipend and a departmental merit award to attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Chemistry PhD program.
  • Wilson graduated in May and has been accepted to chemical engineering programs at Florida State University and University of South Alabama.
  • Witt is a UWF Chem Scholar who will graduate in May 2016.

For more information about the ACS Scholars program, visit