Harvard Establishes Postdoc Program for Underrepresented Groups

January 09, 2008

Harvard University will award 12 new postdoctoral fellowships in chemistry this spring that are particularly aimed at women and members of ethnic minority groups. The fellows will study for a year in Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, and will have the opportunity to apply for a second year of fellowship money.

The goal of the program is to increase the number of women and minority Ph.D.’s who become professors. For several years now, Harvard and other research universities have been concerned that the number of women and minorities hired as faculty members in science and engineering is much lower than the number of women and minorities who have Ph.D.’s in those fields.

Donna J. Nelson, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma, has documented that gap in two studies, including one released in October.

Harvard plans to spend $2.6-million on the postdoc program, although a spokesman said it isn’t clear how much each fellow will receive.

The program is named for Mary Fieser, who earned a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Radcliffe College in the 1930s and worked in her husband’s chemistry laboratory at Harvard for decades but never earned a Ph.D. Ms. Fieser, who died in 1997, left much of her estate to Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology.

A copy of the postdoc application is on the department’s Web site. —Robin Wilson