Middlecamp honored for encouraging disadvantaged students in chemical sciences

February 16, 2015

Cathy Middlecamp, a UW-Madison professor of environmental studies, has been honored with a national award from the American Chemical Society (ACS) for encouraging disadvantaged students into careers in the chemical sciences. 

Middlecamp, who also holds a joint appointment in the Integrated Liberal Studies Program and is an affiliate of the Chemistry Department, has brought the issue of equal access to the attention of the larger chemistry community and assisted hundreds of students throughout her career.

In 1979, Middlecamp joined the Chemistry Tutorial Program for Minority/Disadvantaged Students, later renamed the Chemistry Learning Center, at UW-Madison. In 1989, she became the program’s director. She has worked to implement changes in teaching, course content and the broader campus community that lead to student success, for example encouraging colleagues to be more inclusive in their presentations.

Middlecamp is also an editor-in-chief of ACS’s Chemistry in Context project, an issues-based college curriculum model that enables students to learn chemistry in the context of their own lives. She has received awards at the local, state, and national levels for her teaching and her work bringing science to the general public.

“I do not know anyone else who has invested so much time, effort, emotion, compassion, and mentoring into disadvantaged students to guarantee that they are not only represented in the chemical sciences but are successful as well,” Zafra Lerman, president of the Malta Conferences Foundation, is cited as writing in a Feb. 2 Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) article about the award

“Everybody wins when we have more diversity in every sense of the word,” Middlecamp tells C&EN. “We can’t afford to throw away any talent.”

Middlecamp will be honored at an awards ceremony in March, held in conjunction with the spring ACS national meeting in Denver. The award includes a gift of $5,000 and a grant of $10,000 to strengthen activities in stimulating students, underrepresented in the profession, to elect careers in the chemical sciences and engineering. 

Middlecamp was also recently elected as an officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), serving as chair-elect of the organization’s Education section.