Graduate Student (Cavagnero), Department of Communications
The Bridge to the Chemistry Doctorate Program at University of Wisconsin-Madison aims to increase the diversity and cultural awareness of the Department of Chemistry. This program allows students who are motivated to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering, but require additional coursework or research experience to become competitive applicants.
The Bridge to the Doctorate informational webpage states that the Bridge Program is a 21-month long Masters of Research Science degree program that allows Bridge Students to take courses, receive mentorship and gain research experience along with their degree. The Bridge Program offers full-financial support to its fellows and is aimed at increasing the number of students who come from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in Chemistry Ph.D. programs across the country, including at UW-Madison.
To aid in this crucial effort, the PPG Foundation has committed to help fund the Bridge Program at UW-Madison. Industry support is crucial to the success of the Bridge Program at UW-Madison not only for funding, but to also share knowledge and resources related to successful efforts aimed at increasing diversity.
“At PPG, we know the importance of supporting diverse students and communities in science-related fields. Through the Bridge Program, it’s our goal to advance equity in STEM learning and career development and to make possible the world-changing careers that PPG employees experience,” said Bill Retsch, PPG senior research manager, Polymer Synthesis.
Dr. Joerg Schlatterer, who oversees all of the ACS-funded Bridge Programs, recalled that in 2018, the American Chemical Society (ACS) began looking for universities that would be a good fit for the Bridge Program. More specifically, they were looking for programs with infrastructure in place that would allow the program to thrive. Faculty co-lead Professor Bob Hamers and staff co-lead Dr. Desiree Bates formed a steering committee and applied to ACS for the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), with what Schlatterer said was a very strong application.
“There was a sustainability program in place,” Schlatterer noted. He went on to say that the UW-Madison Graduate School and the College of Letters and Sciences matched the funding that ACS gave to the Bride Program. This allowed for the Chemistry Department to take on four Bridge Fellows per year.
UW-Madison has other initiatives in place that support the much needed diversification of the department. All of these programs can be found on the departments webpage, including: Chemistry Opportunities (CHOPS), Catalyst and the Climate and Diversity Committee. Bates mentioned that it was important to have these programs in place alongside the Bridge Program to enforce equitable opportunities within the Chemistry Department for all students that want to apply to graduate school.
“Everyone has to be on board so that we don’t enforce [inequity amongst students]”, Bates stated.
Additional funding is crucial to the growth and development of not only the Bridge Program, but also to the UW-Madison Chemistry Community, and to companies in industry that rely on the employment of Ph.D.s from UW-Madison.
“Their diversity and their ability to recruit people who can work in a diverse environment is dependent on what Ph.D.s we produce”, Bates stated.
Overall, the Bridge Program is one of many necessary strides that the Department of Chemistry is taking to increase the participation of under-represented minority students in the Chemistry Ph.D. program. Efforts like this one will continue to be necessary and vital to the Chemistry Department, and UW-Madison as a whole.