ChBE, Chemistry graduate students recognized for Inclusive Leadership


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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering’s Jiachun Shi has received the 2023 Gender Equity and Inclusion in the Chemical Sciences (GEICS) Inclusive Leadership Award and Catherine Jalomo in the Department of Chemistry received has received the runner-up award.

Throughout her graduate studies in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois, Jiachun Shi has been a natural leader who promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion through her involvement in various organizations and activities and through her daily interactions with fellow students and others.

“In every room, Jiachun is a clear and strong voice for inclusion and diversity in all aspects,” according to one nominator for the 2023 Gender Equity and Inclusion in the Chemical Sciences (GEICS) Inclusive Leadership Award.

“Her personal values on such topics are clearly stated, and she always ensures a variety of views are presented,” the nominator wrote. “Jiachun is able to elicit viewpoints from people because she is personable and empathetic. She makes people feel at ease and know that their views are not just being sought but are valued when presented. The activities Jiachun organizes are widely successful because of the diversity of ideas and views that go into putting the events together.”

A ChBE doctoral student, Shi was honored on Aug. 19 for her efforts to promote diversity and inclusion when she was presented the 2023 Inclusive Leadership Award during the annual Gender Equity and Inclusion in the Chemical Sciences (GEICS) conference. Catherine Jalomo, a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry at Illinois, received the runner-up 2023 GEICS Inclusive Leadership Award.

Established in 2019, the award recognizes graduate students in chemistry and chemical and biomolecular engineering who are models of inclusive excellence through their commitment to promoting full and equal participation of women, people of color, persons with disabilities, persons of differing sexual orientations, and gender identities in research and teaching.

Jiachun Shi

Shi said it is a true honor to receive the Inclusive Leadership award.

“I appreciate the department's recognition, which motivates me to contribute more to create a supportive environment for the department and campus,” Shi said. “I have had the privilege to talk to many fantastic female colleagues and leaders from various fields, and they motivated and inspired me to become one of the advocates for diversity and equity. I hope my recognition can motivate someone else too.”

A fifth-year doctoral student in Prof. Simon Rogers’ group, Shi has been the ChBE GSAC Professional development chair (2020-2021), an EGSAC committee member (2021-2022), general lead for Society of Rheology student activity in 2022, and has held various roles with GradSWE, the graduate student faction of the UIUC Society of Women Engineers (SWE), including GradSWE director for 2023-24.

Her future career goal is product development in the rheology industry.

As an inclusive leader in ChBE, Shi launched a graduate mentorship committee through GradSWE, the graduate student faction of the UIUC Society of Women Engineers (SWE). The mentoring program promotes diversity in engineering fields and provides women undergraduates in STEM with opportunities to learn from and seek advice from women graduate students. Even though the program started during the pandemic, 50 people enrolled by the end of 2022 and 120 students expressed interest in joining the next academic year.

As the speaker co-coordinator for the 11th weSTEM (Women Empowered in STEM) conference, Shi successfully recruited 11 women leaders from industry, national labs, and academics to share their inspiring stories and empower and encourage women graduate students to pursue their passions.

Throughout her graduate career, Shi has also participated in various local community outreach events, including the St. Elmo Brady Academy, which increases awareness of STEM subjects to support STEM interest and identity for students from underrepresented backgrounds, and the CURIE summer camp for middle and high school students, which seeks to increase diversity, equity, and access in STEM majors and careers.

“She is a natural leader who has developed her leadership abilities through these organizations,” one nominator wrote. “Her presence on campus committees and her participation in outreach events, both on campus and around the country, moves the department forward. To Jiachun, there is simply no question regarding the importance of inclusivity and diversity.”

This academic year, Shi is serving as the GradSWE director, leading 20 committee members in creating a supportive and welcoming environment for all women graduate students via various engagements with internal and external sponsors.

As the primary award recipient, Shi receives an engraved award and up to $1,000 toward participation in conferences, procuring research materials, supplies, books, additional certifications, or other professional development activities. As runner-up, Jalomo receives up to $500 sponsored by the Women Chemists Committee.

Catherine Jalomo

A graduate researcher in the groups of Prof. Catherine Murphy and Prof. Steve Zimmerman, Jalomo has been involved in the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos, Hispanics, and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Women Chemists Committee, Student Wellness Coalition, is also a member of the Department of Chemistry’s Climate Committee, and serves as a mentor in the ADJUST program and in the C2 — Chemical Science through Community program, which connects undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented groups in the chemical sciences. Last year, she received the C2 Outstanding Mentor award.

“I highly respect the previous recipients of this award and their work while grad students here, and they have inspired me to continue working on issues that I care about,” Jalomo said. 

One nominator said Jalomo has sought to build communities within the chemistry department that improve diversity and inclusion through her leadership in SACNAS, as a graduate representative on the climate committee, and as a mentor to undergraduate and younger graduate students.

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This story was published August 25, 2023.