National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry


2020 INVITED NATIONAL HONORARY MEMBER - Dr. Frances Arnold, California Institute of Technology

Iota Sigma Pi, the National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry, has selected Professor Frances H. Arnold to receive the Invited National Honorary Member Award. Dr. Arnold is the fifth woman, and the first American woman, to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the 117 years that the prize has been awarded. This award recognizes exceptional achievement in chemistry or an allied field that merits international recognition. This special award is the highest honor that Iota Sigma Pi awards to an outstanding female chemist and has previously been awarded to Marie Curie (1921), Gerti T. Cori (1949), and Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1966).

Frances H. Arnold is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry, and Bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology. She also serves as the Director of the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering center and the Biotechnology Leadership Predoctoral Training. Prof. Arnold pioneered the field of directed evolution of enzymes, research that earned her the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, making her the fifth woman to win the award. The evolved enzymes have catalyzed important reactions in the fields of medicine (diabetes drug Januvia®), neurobiology (MRI agents), chemical synthesis (plant sugars to jet fuel), and alternative energy (anaerobic biofuel synthesis). The widespread uses of these selectively evolved enzymes reveal not only the elegance of her directed evolution concept, but also demonstrate scalability and transition of science out of the laboratory, something that is of importance to Prof. Arnold. In addition to her groundbreaking work, Prof. Arnold also provides a research environment to unleash the creativity of young scientists, something that she views as a crucial and rewarding part of her career, and as such has mentored 250 young scientists to date. Prof. Arnold has been invited to the 2020 Iota Sigma Pi's Triennial Convention.

2019 GLADYS ANDERSON EMERSON SCHOLARSHIP - Chloe A. Beardsley, Colorado State University

Gladys Anderson Emerson Scholarship recognizes excellence in chemistry or biochemistry by a women undergraduate student who have attained junior standing. The celebrant of this award must be nominated by an Iota Sigma PI member and must be a member of our organization at the time of nomination.
According to her personal statement, Chloe A. Beardsley aspires to pursue and share her passion for chemistry through teaching. Since she was age 16, she volunteered to lead, support, encourage and teach young women to be "strong, smart, and bold" through various summer programs. Chloe herself is a chemistry major in her third year at Colorado State University, who is simultaneously pursuing teacher licensure in secondary education. As with many chem. majors, "she caught the science and chemistry bug from a dynamic teacher and wants to pass on the appreciation of how chemistry exists in all we do".
Chloe’s involvement with research experience is impressive! In her first year at Colorado State University, she joined and continues to pursue research focused on development of inexpensive, "microfluidic paper-based devices for detection of pesticide, and heavy metals". In addition to her work with the research group at the university, Chloe works to expand the technology to detect metals in aqueous, soil and air samples, through a startup company founded by her professor.
She is a recipient of multiple scholarships (in addition to this one) who looks to further the role of women in science, and is starting the process to form a chapter of Iota Sigma Pi in the Fort Collins area but is also interested in networking across the Rocky Mountains.

2019 UNDERGRADUATE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN CHEMISTRY - Melisa Pasli, North Carolina State University

In her personal statement, Melisa Pasli explains her unusual circumstance of moving back to her birth country, Turkey from United States when she was twelve years old. Although she is a Turkish-American, she faced and had to work hard to overcome difficulties with language skills, cultural differences, and unfamiliar circumstances during her secondary school years in Turkey. She describes how she met the challenges and gained the strength to grow and succeed academically. She is currently a senior, ranked as number one student in her class, across all majors, at North Carolina State University.
Melisa has devoted her time to a number of research projects both at NCSU and Colorado School of Mines. Her research spans the areas of industrial chemical research as well as biomedical research. Apparently, Melisa worked as an intern at Colorado School of Mines.
Her nominators write about Melisa’s determination, and maturity. Along with her academic excellence, Melisa discusses her experience as a tutor at NCSU, volunteering at the Duke Cancer Center and even with Alzheimer patients. Melisa is definitely a multi-talented, goal oriented, yet very personable and inquisitive young woman.


It is a difficult task to summarize the extensive achievement of this First Generation student! In addition to her three page Personal Statement, three other nominators wrote multi-page, comprehensive letters of accolades including a list of manuscripts and presentations in which Ashley was prominently featured.
There is only one section in her statement regarding the challenge of being a first generation student. Instead, she writes about being "galvanized" when her problem-solving skills were pushed to their limits. She talks about "her first research group", a collaborative team of professors, postdocs, undergraduate and graduate students at Fairmont State University (FSU) and West Virginia University (WVU), during her General Chemistry course, her first year at the FSU. She discusses her progression from study of "micellular aggregation and behavior of surfactants" to having an opportunity to access instrumentations (e.g., potentiostats and glove boxes, and etc.) to learning "synthetic methods to fabricate porous carbon nanofoams", at Naval Research Laboratory.
During her senior year, Ashley had the opportunity to work as a full-time intern, for 10 months at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington D.C. Her then supervisor states that "Ashley commuted 4 hours per day while working 40 hours a week at NRL and taking an online course through FSU". Yet, she arrived every single day "eager to work and learn" and revealing a high level of commitment and professionalism!
Ashley took part, as a lead experimentalist in two main projects, during those 10 months. Her first project involved, "Solution processable conducting polymers for macroscale high-rate energy-storage devices." Second project had to do with the synthesis and characterization of carbon nanofoams, also for high-performance energy-storage devices. The titles of the manuscripts and the presentations represent a remarkable degree of collaboration and maturity.
In addition, two professors from Fairmont State University where Ashley is currently a graduating senior tout her integrity, excellence in communication skills (both verbal and written), and well balanced organization skills. They also mention her ability to work and help other students.
Ashley states that she is passionate about developing "effective teaching strategies" for students with various learning styles. She is poised to pursue a PhD in Chemistry and Chemical Education.


As indicated by the Criteria for this award, the winner of this award must show excellence and amazing achievements in the area of graduate research. The nominators’ letters clearly show Lauren Elizabeth VanGelder’s productivity and achievements in chemical research as tremendous! Starting at the State University of Buffalo (SUNY) (2011-2015) and continuing on at University of Rochester (2015-present), Lauren is completing her work in, "new area of development for nonaqueous redox flow batteries---one that provides new insights into the capabilities of multimetallic charge carriers." In fact, she has published seven first-author manuscripts within the span of two years, on this extremely important topic highly related to the "effective integration of renewable energy from intermittent source such as solar and wind." As a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, one nominator describes Lauren as “a total Rockstar” in the laboratory. The other states that "Lauren is fully equipped with expertise in organic, inorganic, and organometallic synthesis as well as electrochemistry, an impressively broad skillset."
In the area of Teaching and Service, Lauren was a recipient of the Walters Teaching Award, which recognizes "outstanding undergraduate teaching by graduate student teaching assistants." She is known to work extremely hard to prepare for teaching workshops and to make herself accessible to undergraduate students. Also, she has been actively involved in various "outreach" activities, such as; Horizons Program and the Early Connections Opportunity, which promotes increase in representation of underrepresented minorities in the STEM fields.
It is very encouraging to note that Lauren is described as "a remarkably level-headed and grounded individual", who represents a "complete package"! Last fall, she was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student, at the University of Rochester. Now, this remarkable individual was judged as the first place winner by ALL of our Iota Sigma Pi judges for the 2019 Anna Louise Hoffman Award!


Iota Sigma PI, the national organization for women in chemistry, has selected Prof. Maria L. Craig of Mary Baldwin University, Staunton, VA to receive the Centennial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The award is given for excellence in teaching chemistry, biochemistry, or a chemistry-related field. She has been invited to participate in the organization’s Triennial Convention in 2020.

Dr. Craig has been teaching at Mary Baldwin since 2008 and is currently department Chair. She has taught most of the chemistry courses, but primarily organic chemistry and biochemistry, including both lectures and laboratories. Her nominator said, "Dr. Craig is determined to help her students succeed. She never hesitates to explain concepts that students have trouble understanding, whether the subject at hand is about organic chemistry, biochemistry, or physical chemistry." The nomination included many similar comments from former students.

Dr. Craig also conducts undergraduate research and has mentored over 20 students. She is interested in studying a short protein molecule called LL37 which has been implicated in the onset of certain autoimmune diseases. This research has yielded both presentations and publications for the students and their professor.

Dr. Craig is a leader of the Argentum Chapter (Shenandoah Valley) of Iota Sigma Pi, serving as President in 2011-2014. She has a great influence on her students at a personal level, as illustrated by this quote:

"A phenomenal member of Iota Sigma Pi, Dr. Craig has strengthened me as a woman in chemistry by serving as one of my greatest role models. She discusses gender inequality in STEM and reassures her students -- many of whom are female -- that they are competent, smart-working researchers. Moreover, Dr. Craig encourages activism in STEM and the importance of on-campus STEM awareness by actively participating in the student-led American Chemical Society club. By doing this, Dr. Craig is not only a teacher, but a friend that many students look up to and want to follow."

Maria Craig holds a BS in chemistry from James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

2019 VIOLET DILLER AWARD FOR PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE - Dr. Debbie C. Crans, Colorado State University

Iota Sigma PI, the national organization for women in chemistry, has selected Prof. Debbie C. Crans to receive the Violet Diller Award for Professional Excellence. This award honors outstanding contributions to chemistry and allied fields by a woman. Nominees are judged on the significance of their accomplishments in academic, governmental, industrial chemistry, education, administration, or a combination of these areas. She has been invited to participate in the organization’s Triennial Convention in 2020.

Dr. Crans has been teaching at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO since 1987 and is currently Professor of Chemistry and Cell and Molecular Biology. She was named Professor Laureate of the College of Natural Sciences in 2015-2017. She and her research group are involved in problems related to the mode of action of drugs for diseases such as tuberculosis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer. They have interests in a range of different drugs including organic drugs, and transition metal based drugs.

Her nominators have stated that a recent result may be her most important to date, namely the observation that vanadium compounds have enhancing effects on oncolytic viruses and can be used to treat cancer. This work represents an important application and shows Crans' ability to bring fundamental inorganic chemistry into other disciplines thus expanding the field of inorganic chemistry.

Dr. Crans’ career is unique in combining three scientific disciplines. She is a leader in the area of vanadium chemistry (organic vanadium compounds) and biochemistry, in addition to promoting inorganic chemistry by providing advocacy and a high level of service to the broader inorganic chemistry community. Her research contributions have been recognized by many awards.

She has been a positive force for chemistry as a member of NIH study sections and NSF panels. She founded "The Vanadium Symposium", an international interdisciplinary symposium that gathers researchers from all over the world dedicated to vanadium related research topics. In 2018 she was honored with the first Vanadis Award, presented to a researcher who has displayed innovative research and impacted Vanadium Science.

In addition to her own field of research, Debbie has been a great promoter of chemistry for the broader scientific community and has organized symposia for the Women Chemists Committee and Regional ACS meetings. In her role as chair of the Colorado Local Section ACS of the American Chemical Society (COACS), she organized the “Young Talent in Colorado and Beyond” symposium, in summer 2016 involving more than 100 young untenured scientists from the neighboring states. She is a tireless advocate for young scientists and women, constantly championing deserving individuals for awards.

Dr. Crans earned her BS degree at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and went on to receive a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Harvard University. She conducted postdoctoral research in mechanistic enzymology at the University of California-Los Angeles before joining the faculty at Colorado State.

2019 AGNES FAY MORGAN RESEARCH AWARD - Dr. Leslie Hicks, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Iota Sigma PI, the national organization for women in chemistry, has selected Prof. Leslie Hicks to receive the Agnes Fay Morgan Research Award. The award is given for research achievement to a woman chemist or biochemist not over forty years of age. She has been invited to participate in the organization’s Triennial Convention in 2020.

Dr. Hicks is currently an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (UNC–CH) and under her leadership, her research group has developed a new method that allows one to screen and identify bioactive peptides that have antimicrobial or anti-cancer activity. The results of her research will have a wide-ranging impact on fighting antibiotic resistance and developing new chemotherapeutic agents to target cancerous cells.

The other focus of Hicks’ research is a long-standing problem in biofuels development: the decoupling of algal growth from biodiesel production. (Algae may be manipulated to produce the precursors to biodiesel, but this causes their growth to cease — preventing this cessation is an important objective of biofuels research.) Hicks’ skills and knowledge of mass spectrometry and proteomics have helped her group make significant contributions to solving this puzzle.

To date, she has been co-author on 62 publications, which have collectively been cited almost 3,400 times — a testament to the importance of the science that she has produced so far. Dr. Hicks has been recognized nationally for her achievements in chemistry — this is clearly evidenced by her numerous publications, awards and honors, and grants received.

Dr. Hicks nominators cited her personal qualities, as well as her research achievements, as reasons for her nomination. "In addition to publishing significant research for the advancement of anti-microbial agents, Dr. Hicks is committed to increasing opportunities for underrepresented students in science, including both women and minorities. She frequently invites undergraduate students to take on meaningful roles in ongoing research… She pairs significant research achievements in analytical chemistry with an unwavering dedication to student mentorship. Dr. Hicks uses her success to the benefit of graduate and undergraduate students alike, ensuring that underrepresented students are empowered to advance in science either by direct mentorship or through collaborations with other universities."

Dr. Hicks received a BS in Chemistry summa cum laude from Marshall University, Huntington, WV. As a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, she made important contributions to chemistry and co-authored several high-profile publications while earning her PhD. Next she became the Director of Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center at Washington University in St. Louis. She continued with an appointment as an assistant member and principle investigator of the Center (2006–2013), while also serving as an adjunct professor in the Department of Biology. She is now a tenured faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at UNC–CH.

2020 HONORARY MEMBER AWARD - Dr. Vicki H. Grassian, University of California - San Diego

Iota Sigma PI, the national organization for women in chemistry, has selected Prof. Vicki H. Grassian to receive the National Honorary Member Award. This award honors exceptional and significant achievement in chemistry or an allied field of such nature to merit international recognition. This award is the highest honor that Iota Sigma Pi bestows on outstanding women chemists. She has been invited to participate in the organization’s Triennial Convention in 2020.

After a distinguished career at the University of Iowa, in 2013 Professor Grassian became co-Director of the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE,) a multi-institutional NSF-Chemical Center of Innovation headquartered at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) campus. In January 2016, she joined the faculty at UC San Diego as Distinguished Professor and holds the Distinguished Chair of Physical Chemistry. In August 2016, she was appointed Associate Dean of Physical Sciences and in January 2018 Executive Associate Dean of Physical Sciences.

Dr. Grassian’s research spans physical, analytical, surface, materials and environmental chemistry. Her nominators said, "Her research focuses on the chemistry of environmental interfaces including indoor surfaces, heterogeneous and multiphase aerosol chemistry, climate impacts of atmospheric aerosols, and environmental, energy and health aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology. In particular, she has been a pioneer in laboratory studies of the reactivity and physicochemical properties of mineral dust and sea spray aerosols." "Her research has transformed several areas including atmospheric chemistry and climate impacts of particulate matter and the environmental and health impacts of nanoparticles. These studies provide the fundamental basis needed to understand the global impacts of mineral dust."

Professor Grassian is an innovative and dedicated teacher. In her distinguished career, Professor Grassian has mentored nearly two hundred students in her laboratory including thirty-two students who have received their PhDs under her guidance. In 2018, she received the ACS-CEI Award for Incorporation of Sustainability into Chemistry Education for her innovative work in education. She has mentored numerous women including junior faculty, postdocs and graduate and undergraduate students paving the way for woman chemists to follow in her successful career path.

As a member of several technical divisions of American Chemical Society (ACS) including Physical Chemistry, Colloid and Surface Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry and Geochemistry she has served in the governance of ACS, as well as providing leadership and vision. She also co-chaired the AWIS-ACS AWARDS Task Force. In this role, she worked to increase the number of women nominated and selected to receive national awards.

Dr. Grassian has been the recipient of many awards throughout her exemplary career. Most recently, she was a recipient of the IUPAC Distinguished Woman in Chemistry Award and will be honored in Paris this summer. She also recently received the 2019 William H. Nichols Medal Award from ACS for her contributions to the chemistry of environmental interfaces.

Dr. Grassian earned her BS degree at the State University of New York-Albany and an MS degree at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She received her PhD from the University of California-Berkeley and conducted postdoctoral research at Colorado State University and Berkeley. She began her independent academic career at the University of Iowa and rose through the academic ranks. In 2010 she was named the F. Wendell Miller Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry with appointments in the Departments of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and Occupational and Environmental Health.