LSU Tops in the Nation at Awarding Chemistry Ph.D. Degrees to Women and African Americans

06/06/2014 08:46 AM

BATON ROUGE – LSU is the top university in the nation in granting Ph.D. degrees in chemistry to women and underrepresented minority students, according to a study published in the Journal of Chemical Education.

The study cites LSU’s growth specifically in chemistry Ph.D. degrees awarded to women – 49 percent growth from 2005-09 – and African-American students – 19 percent growth from 2005-09. LSU is also the top university listed, with 11 percent growth from 2005-2009, in the number of chemistry Ph.D. degrees awarded to all groups of underrepresented minority students.

“At LSU we strive for a diverse student population in all academic areas, and we applaud the hard work of our faculty, staff and students in chemistry for this recognition,” said LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander. “This shows that LSU is not only recruiting students from all populations at both the undergraduate and graduate level, but strives to retain and see those students complete their degree programs. There is a need for high quality students studying the STEM fields. At LSU there are opportunities for students from every background to receive a high quality education.”

The study, “Trends in Ph.D. Productivity and Diversity in Top-50 U.S. Chemistry Departments: An Institutional Analysis,” describes trends in chemistry Ph.D. degrees granted over the past two decades. The results highlight departments that stand out from their peers in educating a diverse group of Ph.D. chemists.

According to Isiah M. Warner, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives; Boyd Professor and Philip W. West Professor of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry; and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, LSU has been the top university in awarding chemistry Ph.D. degrees to African-American students for more than 10 years.

When Warner arrived at LSU in 1992, there had been no more than six African-American Ph.D. students in the history of the university’s chemistry program. In the last 12 years, LSU has made significant improvements and now averages more than 30 African-American chemistry Ph.D. students yearly.

“The entire department – faculty, staff and students – has made substantial sustained efforts to allow our department to be the most successful Department of Chemistry in the U.S. in graduating women and African-American Ph.D.s in chemistry,” said Luigi G. Marzilli, William White Tison Professor and Chair of the LSU Department of Chemistry.

The study specifically touts LSU’s efforts in regard to diversity: “Louisiana State’s website also has an explicit statement about diversity and examples of specific initiatives and their leaders. The department’s five-year strategic plan includes diversity goals that are tailored to the department’s context and opportunities. LSU’s story emphasizes the deliberate building of relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, by charismatic leaders who took initiative coupled with engagement of the whole faculty in recruitment and retention.”


"This remarkable success is the result of many years of focused work by the Department of Chemistry and the Office of Strategic Initiatives. The plan of the College of Science includes spreading this know-how to other departments in the college," said Guillermo Ferreyra, interim dean, LSU College of Science.

The LSU Office of Strategic Initiatives focuses on “Hierarchical Mentoring,” which involves every member of the academic community in mentoring students through a pipeline that starts from the time a student enters the program through completion of the Ph.D.

Mentoring is a major component of Office of Strategic Initiatives-led programs, such as the Louisiana Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Research Scholars Program, or LA-STEM, and the Louisiana Broadening Resources for Increasing Diversity in Graduate Education Program, or Bridge to the Doctorate.

LA-STEM, funded by NSF and the Louisiana Board of Regents, admits students who show great potential to succeed in STEM areas at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and who have distinguished themselves as scholars and leaders. The Office of Strategic Initiatives looks for students who are committed to promoting diversity in the sciences in their undergraduate and graduate careers. Students are required to maintain the highest of academic standards to remain in the program. They also exemplify a strong dedication to mentoring, enthusiasm for diverse cultural experiences and a passion for serving the community.

As LA-STEM ushers students through the undergraduate portion of the pipeline, the Bridge to the Doctorate, funded by the NSF Louisiana Alliance for Minority Participation Program, guides them through the completion of the Ph.D. Now in its sixth iteration, the program offers a two-year $30,000 fellowship in addition to individualized faculty mentoring and coaching, national and international research conferences, and enriched academic services and support.

Over the past 12 years, the Office of Strategic Initiatives has brought in more than $35 million in STEM education and training grants, all with a focus on diversifying the STEM pipeline. In addition to LA-STEM and the Bridge to the Doctorate, programs such as the Louis Stokes Louisiana Alliance for Minority Participation, or LAMP; S-STEM; HHMI Professors; Upward Bound; and a Bridge to the Baccalaureate emphasize diversity.  

Another important program has been the McNair Research Scholars, operated in the LSU University College. Students in the McNair program participate in activities such as faculty mentorship and research, regular one-on-one counseling with McNair Program staff and graduate school entrance exam preparation. Students are expected to conduct their research, write about it and make a public presentation at a national conference regarding their research topic.


In addition, the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development, or IMSD, has been key in helping students pursue successful research careers and leadership positions, and these scholars are among the most sought-after candidates nationwide for entrance into Ph.D. or post-Ph.D. programs. IMSD has been funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Heath since 2004, and was recently renewed through 2018. The program supports the research of two minority graduate students, and 20 minority undergraduate students per year at LSU. The IMSD Scholars receive personalized research training, counseling, mentoring and curriculum development, and go on to pursue successful careers and leadership positions in the biomedical or behavioral sciences.

About the Journal of Chemical Education:
The Journal of Chemical Education is the official journal of the Division of Chemical Education of the American Chemical Society, co-published with the American Chemical Society Publications Division. Launched in 1924, the Journal of Chemical Education is the world’s premier chemical education journal. The journal publishes peer-reviewed articles and related information as a resource to those in the field of chemical education and to those institutions that serve them. For more on the study, visit

Ernie  Ballard 
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Friday, June 6, 2014