The Catalyst program is designed to help first-year graduate students from underserved populations succeed in the chemistry graduate program at UW-Madison.

About the program

Catalyst LogoEstablished in 2016, the Catalyst program supports participating students during their first year of graduate school. Targeted toward (but not limited to) under-represented minority, low-income, and/or first-generation graduate students, the program consists of a peer-mentoring scaffold and a professional development seminar series that helps to create a sense of belonging and connection between participating first-year students and their peers, department, campus, and the Madison community. Before arriving on campus, each Catalyst participant is paired with a current graduate student who will help them become acclimated to graduate school. Participants also will have the opportunity to attend monthly seminars that build professional skills that are relevant to their success in graduate school. These seminars address topics such as establishing a productive work/life balance, cultivating a positive scientific mindset, and fostering an inclusive environment.

Benefits of participation

Students invited to participate in Catalyst will have access to:

A peer mentor

  • Peer mentors are carefully selected current graduate students
  • Mentors complete a one-day mentor training
  • Mentors agree to contact their mentee before they arrive on campus, to meet face-to-face at least twice a semester, and to attend at least two monthly meetings per semester

Monthly networking meetings

  • Consists of professional and social components including team building exercises, career seminars, panels, group discussions, and healthy-living activities

Cross-campus colloquia

  • Unconventional seminar focused on community-building

Leadership opportunities

  • Past Catalyst participants will have the opportunity to lead the program for the following year as a Board member and/or peer mentor

Catalyst Program Organizers

Cheri Barta

Position title: Undergraduate Research Director


Phone: 608.262.6533

2110 Chemistry

Desiree Bates

Position title: Computational Chemistry Leader


Phone: 608.262.6936

9307 Chemistry

The Catalyst program is generously supported by the UW-Madison Graduate School and PPG.