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MTSU doctoral student wins American Chemical Socie...

MTSU doctoral student wins American Chemical Society award for promoting women in STEM

Nicole Gammons, left, Middle Tennessee State University Ph.D. student in the Molecular Biosciences program, recently won the American Chemical Society’s Leadership Development Award from its Division of Professional Relations for promoting women in STEM education, through her outreach work such as her volunteer position at the university’s Women in STEM Center directed by MTSU professor Judith Iriarte-Gross, right. (MTSU photo illustration by Stephanie Wagner)

MTSU Ph.D. student Nicole Gammons stimulates her mind with data-driven research as part of the Molecular Biosciences doctoral program, but her passion is collaborating with, coordinating and mentoring young women in science, technology, engineering and math. 

“By providing resources and opportunities to pursue STEM education for young women, I am building a strong foundation for networking with undergraduate and graduate students and STEM professionals and hopefully helping to usher in the next generation of females in STEM careers,” Gammons said. 

The Division of Professional Relations, or PROF, of the American Chemical Society recently recognized Gammons’ influential outreach work with the Leadership Development Award.

Nicole Gammons
Nicole Gammons

“The selection committee was truly impressed with your achievements, leadership and impact on the chemical community,” wrote the PROF selection committee chair Matt Grandbois to Gammons in her award letter. 

The American Chemical Society, or ACS, is one of the largest scientific communities in the world with over 151,000 members across 140 countries. The PROF Division selects one leadership development winner a year from its large pool of member applicants who meet basic location and age requirements and — through an in-depth application process — demonstrate multiple leadership and volunteer experiences through activities, society or organization memberships, mentoring, academic achievements and awards, publications, presentations and more. 

ACS PROF logo

Gammons, a member of both the ACS and PROF, decided to apply for the award after Judith Iriarte-Gross, director of MTSU’s Women in STEM (WISTEM) Center where Gammons volunteers, suggested it. 

Gammons found out she won three weeks after applying. 

“I was in the middle of a work conversation,” Gammons said. “I stopped talking and dropped my jaw. I was very happy. I have dedicated numerous hours to developing my leadership skills, so it is a rewarding feeling to have acknowledgement that my dedication to developing leadership skills has not gone unnoticed.”

One of Gammons’ leadership contributions was helping organize MTSU’s annual Tennessee Girls in STEM Conference to introduce middle and high school girls to science and mathematics careers, which, Gammons said, is so important because even though women make up the majority of students in STEM classes, they are not choosing STEM careers — especially in Tennessee. 


“It’s designed to increase their interest in STEM through a series of hands-on workshops and guest speakers,” she said. “I am an executive team member, leader of the prize committee and design STEM workshops for the conference. I also promote the conference to other groups, schools and industries.”

The award comes with an invitation to the 2023 ACS Leadership Development Institute in Atlanta Jan. 20-22, which Gammons plans to attend. PROF will cover the costs of her transportation, lodging and meals.

Originally from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, Gammons said MTSU’s faculty is its greatest strength in helping graduate students earn these types of awards and recognitions. 

“Dr. Elliot Altman (biology professor) is my advisor, and he understands the importance of learning molecular techniques as well as learning how to lead a lab of research students,” she said. “The program offers graduate students the opportunity to collaborate with these experts in their various fields of study.” 

Dr. Judith Iriarte-Gross, chemistry professor, director of the Women In STEM (WISTEM) Center at MTSU, and founder and director of Tennessee’s first Expanding Your Horizons girls’ STEM education workshop

Iriarte-Gross saw leadership potential in Gammons from their first meeting. 

“She thinks outside of the box, is not afraid to ask questions and her suggestions make the WISTEM Center stronger for girls in STEM,” Iriarte-Gross said. “Nicole is an amazing leader and winning this award is such an honor. Her work and this award show that mentoring does matter!” 

Iriarte-Gross, who has been recognized with numerous awards for her yearslong advocacy of STEM careers to young girls and women, added that Gammons’ win is cause for celebration for the campus community. 

“Knowing that she received recognition for her leadership in molecular biosciences and for her mentoring of girls who are future STEM majors should make all the STEM departments in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences stand up and cheer!” she said. 

Learn more about the Molecular Biosciences Ph.D. program at https://mtsu.edu/programs/molecular-biosciences-phd/index.php

— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)

Nicole Gammons, left, Middle Tennessee State University Ph.D. student in the Molecular Biosciences program, recently won the American Chemical Society’s Leadership Development Award from its Division of Professional Relations for promoting women in STEM education, through her outreach work such as her volunteer position at the university’s Women in STEM Center directed by MTSU professor Judith Iriarte-Gross, right. (MTSU photo illustration by Stephanie Wagner)
Nicole Gammons, left, Middle Tennessee State University Ph.D. student in the Molecular Biosciences program, recently won the American Chemical Society’s Leadership Development Award from its Division of Professional Relations for promoting women in STEM education, through her outreach work such as her volunteer position at the university’s Women in STEM Center directed by MTSU professor Judith Iriarte-Gross, right. (MTSU photo illustration by Stephanie Wagner)

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