The second annual CHEM|UNITY symposium took place on April 7, 2022, highlighting scientific contributions made by members of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community. It also provided an opportunity for all graduate students to engage in professional development and share their work while increasing representation of BIPOC chemists as speakers and innovators in science. It is organized by commUNITY, a Department of Chemistry graduate student organization that builds community across all segments from undergrads to alumni.

The CHEM|UNITY symposium is one way for allies to hear about the experiences and work of BIPOC chemists, explained Taylor Bramlett, fifth-year graduate student and a founder of the commUNITY in the Department of Chemistry.  “Chemistry is the one concept that brings us together, and we can use it to springboard to open dialogue for things that are happening to people and how it impacts the way we do everything,” Bramlett said.

The CHEM|UNITY symposium had over 40 registrants and featured two keynote speakers: Dr. Christina M. Jones and Dr. Nikita L. Burrows. Dr. Jones received her PhD in Analytical Chemistry from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2015 and is currently a Research Chemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. She spoke about her career path, highlighting the valuable roles that mentorship played throughout her career. Dr. Burrows is an Assistant Professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey and received her PhD in Organic Chemistry Education at Georgia State University in 2017. In her keynote address, Prof. Burrows spoke about a qualitative research study regarding oral summative assessments in upper-level undergraduate laboratory courses. In addition to the keynote addresses, four graduate students shared their work in oral seminar format, and five graduate students presented posters related to their work.

Faculty advisors to commUnity are Charles McCrory and Ginger Shultz. Staff liaison is Alex Franklin.

“These students are true leaders,” said Professor Shultz. She points out that the work commUNITY does to fight the isolation experienced in the predominantly white spaces of the University of Michigan is difficult. “The work they are doing is hard work. I'm really proud of the group. I'm especially proud of Taylor Bramlett, who is an incredible individual.” [Read about Taylor's award.]

Prof. McCrory added that a major accomplishment of commUNITY is the CHEM|UNITY symposium and mixer, adding that “this student-created and student-organized event provides a space for all of our graduate students to share their research, network, and interact with outstanding external and internal speakers. I think the students in commUNITY should be proud of what they have already accomplished with the CHEM|UNITY symposium, and I can't wait to see how it evolves in the future!"

The executive team and advisors say this is an exciting time for commUNITY as they continue to grow within the Chemistry Department. commUNITY is searching for student members for its executive team, specifically a Communications and Public Relations Director, Graduate Student Programming Director, Conference Director, Alumni Liaison, and Undergraduate President and Vice President.

To learn more about commUNITY and ways that you can support the group in their efforts to improve equity for BIPOC chemists at the University of Michigan, follow them on Twitter and Instagram.