Science & Technology

UWF’s Chemistry Scholars Program receives 2021 Inspiring Programs in STEM award

The University of West Florida’s Chemistry Scholars Program was awarded the 2021 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The recognition honors institutions that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM.

“We are honored that our Chemistry Scholars Program has been nationally recognized and more importantly, the success of Chem Scholars represents students’ lives being transformed,” said Dr. Karen Sinclair Molek, chemistry department chair and professor. “Chem Scholars are incredibly talented students who face seemingly insurmountable barriers. Their success is the collaborative result of their hard-work synergized with dedicated faculty, an inspiring alumnus, as well as supportive administrators and campus offices. Together we embody a transformative team!”

The Chemistry Scholars Program in UWF’s Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering was established in September 2011 to recruit and retain high-achieving chemistry students and to increase the number of chemistry students pursuing Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. degrees, both with an emphasis on under-represented students. Under the leadership of Molek and former department chair and professor Dr. Michael Huggins, the UWF Chemistry Scholars program has led to an increase in the number of chemistry majors, the percentage of underrepresented majors and the percentage of all majors matriculating to graduate school, especially underrepresented students. Over 300 Chem Scholars have been accepted over the past decade with a 100% acceptance rate to graduate or professional programs. This work laid the foundation for more than $3.2 million in external grant funding awarded from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation to establish the NIH-funded MARC Scholars and NSF-funded S-STEM Scholars programs.

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. UWF alumnus Dr. Michael Summers inspired the program and has continued to contribute to it through mentorship and financial support over the last decade. UWF modeled the program after the Meyerhoff Program at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which Summers helped start.

“My colleagues at UWF heard about my diversity work and UMBC’s Meyerhoff Program and asked me to come talk to them about what we were doing,” said Summers, a professor at UMBC. “After learning how we launched our program and speaking with current and prospective UWF students, the University submitted a proposal to the National Institutes of Health and received a significant grant to start the program. They were inspired by what we were doing and now I am inspired by what they are doing.”

For more information about the Department of Chemistry, visit