July 26, 2013

Jeanette Grider

Partnership Seeks to Increase Diversity in Science

Increasing diversity of the scientific workforce has been an important issue for the U.S. as global competition necessitates that countries take advantage of all the natural talent in their populations. To address this challenge, Jost Chemical Co. in St. Louis and Saint Louis University have created a joint partnership that seeks to increase the interest in science of local high school students by providing them internship and training opportunities at SLU and Jost.

Chemistry professor Ryan McCulla with student Talaysia Ruff

In the program, high school students from the local school district (St. Louis City District 2009 Demographics: 2.3% Asian; 81.0% Black; 2.7% Hispanic; 0.3% Indian; 13.7% White; Reduced/Free Lunch: 68.7%) are recruited to work on research projects under the direction faculty members in SLU's department of chemistry.

Ryan McCulla, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, said that in addition to exposing the students to modern chemical research, the experience provides training in laboratory techniques that are needed for students to work as interns at Jost Chemical.

"After receiving this training at SLU, the students are offered paid internships at the company for the summer after their graduation from high school," McCulla said.

Since its inception in 2012, three students from Clyde-Miller Career Academy have participated in the program. Talaysia Ruff, a current participant working in the McCulla Research Group at SLU, said the program has provided an important learning experience.

"I joined this internship program because I wanted to have an up close and personal experience with a chemistry lab and get a feel of what chemistry is like in college," Ruff added.

Jost Chemical Co. is a manufacturer of specialty chemicals, such as high purity citrate salts, for the pharmaceutical, nutritional, food and other specialty markets.

2013 Jost Chemical intern Larissa Jefferson studied at SLU in 2012.

Denise Chachere, HR Director at Jost Chemical, said participation in the program is one of the ways that Jost makes excellent corporate citizenship a priority.

"It isn't easy to recruit and retain members of unrepresented groups for STEM-related jobs," Chachere said. "We participate in internship partnerships like these because they help to fill gaps in the pipelines necessary for businesses to reap the return on investments made in our educational systems."

For additional information on the program, contact Ryan McCulla at rmccull2@slu.edu.

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