MTSU science educator earns international recognit...

MTSU science educator earns international recognition for STEM work for women

The string of recognitions continues for a Middle Tennessee State University science educator whose passion has been to promote science, technology, engineering and math to girls and young women.

Dr. Judith Iriarte-Gross, a highly regarded chemistry professor and MTSU WISTEM (Women In STEM) Center director, was recognized by her peers as one of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellows earlier this year. She is the first AAAS Fellow from MTSU.

Iriarte-Gross and other AAAS Fellows were honored during a formal ceremony at the organization’s annual convention in Boston, Massachusetts.

MTSU professor Judith Iriarte-Gross receives American Chemical Society award.

American Chemical Society President Allison A. Campbell, left, MTSU’s Judith Iriarte-Gross and Richard N. “Dick” Zare pose with the ACS award Iriarte-Gross received for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences. Zare, the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science at Stanford University, is one of Iriarte-Gross’s longtime mentors and made the presentation to her. (Photo by American Chemical Society)

AAAS Fellows are recognized by the organization’s council for meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications.

“Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition of your accomplishments,” AAAS CEO Rush D. Holt wrote in a congratulatory letter.

In addition to the AAAS award, which includes international recipients, Iriarte-Gross also has received the following awards:

  • American Chemical Society National Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences “for her continued persistence and tireless efforts to level the playing field for women in chemistry and to inspire young women to major in chemistry.” She was also named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society in 2016.
  • The National Center for Science and Civic Engagement’s William E. Bennett Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Citizen Science, an honor she and Garon Smith, a retired University of Montana chemistry professor, each received for “making lasting impacts on their universities, communities, students and colleagues with their dedication to improving STEM education and engaging students.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a 142-year tradition of recognizing distinguished members for their extraordinary achievements across disciplines, Iriarte-Gross said, adding that she is deeply honored to be included in the AAAS Fellows for “advancing diversity, leadership, collaboration, exemplary teaching, training and public outreach, in support of girls, women and underrepresented groups in STEM.”

Iriarte-Gross, who also serves as director of the 21-year-old Expanding Your Horizons in Math and Science Conference for girls and young women, credits many that work alongside her in various STEM initiatives for helping her achieve professional success.

“This honor is not due to my work alone but belongs to all who have been a part of our passion to support girls and women in STEM in Tennessee and across the South,” she said.

The AAAS website said all fellows are expected to meet the commonly held standards of professional ethics and scientific integrity.

“Both the American Chemical Society and AAAS awards are huge,” said Iriarte-Gross’s dean, Dr. Bud Fischer of the MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

Dr. David Butler, first-year dean of the College of Graduate Studies and vice provost for research, confirmed that his colleague’s recognition as “an AAAS Fellow is, indeed, a high honor.”

Along with numerous science-related honors, Iriarte-Gross received a Silver Column Award in 2013 from MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. The honor, which is accompanied by a silver lapel pin, recognizes individuals who go beyond the call of duty to make the MTSU campus a place that is conducive to learning and caring.

— Randy Weiler (

MTSU professor Judith Iriarte-Gross named AAAS Fellow.

MTSU’s Judith Iriarte-Gross, left, joins present and past American Chemical Society presidents Allison A. Campbell (2017), Diane Grob Schmidt (’15) and Bassam Shakhashiri (’12) in Boston during the 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellows award presentation. (Submitted photo)