Chemistry Graduate Students Zoe Gehman and Mary Jo McCormick Receive DEI Grant

Written and Compiled by Delaney Hammond


Graduate students Zoe Gehman and Mary Jo McCormick have received a grant from the UVA Directors of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion grants program. The grant is for $4,332 and will support their efforts at Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington. 

Heritage University is located on the Yakama Reservation and is designated both a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and a Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institution (NASNTI). While they offer an array of degrees in the sciences, they do not offer a degree in chemistry. Gehman and McCormick — along with members of other research groups at UVA — have partnered with Heritage University to introduce chemistry into other science-related classes to encourage participation and interest in the field, both in undergraduate studies and beyond. 

Since the partnership’s founding, UVA graduate students have been able to teach chemical experiments to Heritage students. McCormick spoke about the specific chemistry skills graduate students have been able to share in the classroom. 

Most recently, Emma Cook and Zoe Gehman developed a nitrate quantification lab that utilizes the camera of a smartphone as the detector in a colorimetric assay,” McCormick said in a written statement.  “This lab is particularly efficient at introducing chemistry into non-chemistry courses at Heritage University because the university is located in an agricultural region, and there is a strong ecological interest in the community.”

Additionally, the partnership allows UVA graduate students to connect with students at Heritage about potential academic and career paths they could pursue after graduation. They share their own graduate school experiences and inform undergraduates of opportunities they may find in chemistry and beyond. 

With their grant, the pair will be able to continue spreading chemistry to historically underserved populations. Congratulations to Gehman and McCormick on this outstanding achievement.