MU professor’s mentoring honored

Monday, December 5, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:07 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Sheryl Tucker, associate professor of chemistry at MU, received a $10,000 grant on Nov. 16 at the White House as one of 10 winners of the 2005 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

“It is such an honor to be chosen by my peer groups,” Tucker said. “To be considered one of the top mentors in the country is kind of phenomenal.”

The award was given to Tucker for her promotion of underrepresented groups. One example is the Magic of Chemistry program she started in Missouri in 1998.

The program collaborates with the Girl Scouts Heart of Missouri Council to keep girls in the fourth through sixth grades interested in science with opportunities to do hands-on experiments in all-girl settings.

“It’s about exposure and opportunity,” Tucker said. “If you have neither, you have no hope of having them interested in the subject.”

Tucker plans to use $5,000 of the grant to spread her program across the nation by sending Magic of Chemistry start-up kits to other higher education institutions’ chemistry departments that work with Girl Scout councils.

According to national studies, women and underrepresented groups often lose interest in experimental science before reaching high school — a trend Tucker is trying to change.

The other half of the grant will go toward Tucker’s continuing work to mentor underrepresented groups that participate in her research program, in which many of her graduate students are female and many of her undergraduate students have been minorities.

“If they’ve made it this far, we want to maintain their interest,” Tucker said.

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