Providing role models for aspiring scientists

New organization promotes diverse scholars in STEM careers

September 7, 2016

A chemistry professor from Arizona State University will kick off a seminar series launched by a new CU Denver organization, the Colorado Organization for the Advancement of Diverse Scholars in Science (COADSS).

CU Denver chemistry professor Marino Resendiz
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Marino Resendiz was awarded a CU Diversity and Excellence grant for his COADSS project.

The seminar series is just one of several outreach activities being spearheaded by COADSS, which got its start last year when Marino Resendiz, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry at CU Denver, was awarded a CU Diversity and Excellence grant. The $3,000 grant allowed COADSS last spring to bring in three diverse speakers from top national research universities.

The debut event was well-received by students on the Auraria Campus and gave Resendiz the idea to make a seminar series an annual event. “The idea is to get students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields and also get other perspectives about them,” he said.

Value of mentors

Resendiz knows firsthand the value of academic mentors. The idea of becoming a researcher was planted when, as an undergraduate at the University of Utah, he participated in a research project. The world of academia opened up even wider for Resendiz – a student who worked multiple jobs to pay his way through school – when he learned that graduate students get paid to perform research. “It was kind of accidental how I ended up in chemistry – it just happened.”

ASU Chemistry professor Marcia Levitus
Marcia Levitus, an associate professor of chemistry at Arizona State University, will speak in the COADSS seminar series on Friday, Sept. 9, at CU Denver.

In his earlier schooling, in high school in Utah, he saw many classmates struggle due to a lack of guidance. “I just see now the value of role models, how they would have helped some of my classmates who had no sense of direction of where to go career-wise,” he said.

That’s the idea behind the seminar series. The speakers will talk about their research and then chat with the audience about their personal experience of pursuing a career in STEM fields and answer any questions.

“Hopefully, this will give students perspectives on other’s pathways, and an idea of the opportunities available in STEM, particularly in research,” Resendiz said. “A lot of students don’t know that they can do research from an early stage, even as undergraduates.”

‘Make college a successful experience’

As part of his outreach efforts, Resendiz will continue to visit area high schools and community colleges to inform students, especially those from underrepresented populations, about the STEM opportunities at CU Denver. He also plans to regularly invite high school and community college students to the Science Building to tour the chemistry laboratories.

He hopes to make the activities of COADSS, which works as a group within the nationwide organization, the Alliance for Diversity in Science and Engineering (ADSE), self-sustaining so that the on-site visits and seminar series can grow in future years. Another guest speaker is planned for spring semester.

“The main thing is to make going to college a successful experience for students – for whatever (area of study) they like,” Resendiz said.