The proportion of women and people of color decreases at every educational and career stage in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). One contributor to this “leaky pipeline” is a lack of a feeling of belonging that could result from challenges such as imposter syndrome, stereotype threat, linguistic challenges, biases, and intercultural competency [1]. Recent surveys of general chemistry textbooks found a preponderance of images of white male scientists, a small number of white women scientists, and few role models that are people of color [2,3,4]. Analytical chemistry textbooks were not included in these surveys, but a cursory review of popular textbooks suggests a similar lack of representation. Such a pale, male and stale curriculum makes it harder for students from underrepresented groups to see themselves as scientists [5,6,7,8]. Students who strongly self-identify as scientists are more likely to persist in their STEM career [9]. When asked, 62−92% of students said they would like to learn more about the background of diverse chemists [10].

The American Chemical Society (ACS) [11], Royal Society of Chemistry [12], Canadian Chemical Society [13], Electrochemical Society [14], and many other professional chemistry societies recognize, value, and promote social justice, inclusivity, equity, and diversity, and support the need for representation in educational materials. The recent ACS diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect (DEIR) survey highlighted “The need for compiled and curated resources available to the community” [11]. This article describes resources that instructors can use to help their students identify as analytical scientists.

Diversity in chemistry collection

Recently, the Diversity in Chemistry collection—an open-access repository of chemistry role models—was launched [10, 15]. The welcome page showcases a video presentation by Nicole Cabrera Salazar of Georgia State University [16] which emphasizes that students often only know the scientists featured in textbooks—mainly white men and a small group of white women—and the impact that this has on many of our students. A horizontal menu links to collections of diverse scientists (from the perspective of dominant representations in Canada and the USA) within the various subdisciplines of chemistry (Table 1). Within each subdiscipline, the role models from underrepresented groups are ordered chronologically by birth year. Each entry has a concise summary about the chemist, including the sources of information so that students can explore the role model’s background and accomplishments further.

Table 1 Diversity collection for various subdisciplines of chemistry

An Other Resources tab provides descriptions of and links to a variety of societies and support networks for chemists such as the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) [17] and the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) [18]. There are also links to collections of underrepresented scientists such as Scientist Spotlights [19], 500 Queer Scientists [20], and 100 Inspiring Hispanic/Latinx Scientists in America [21].

The PowerPoint Packages tab provides slide decks with chemists from the collection ordered to match the topics within a typical General Chemistry II, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, or Analytical Chemistry course. How these slides can be utilized will be discussed in the Adding DEIR to Your Class section below. A PowerPoint compilation of 50 analytical chemistry role models (with alt-text and other accessibility features) is available through the online Instructor Resources of Harris and Lucy’s Quantitative Chemical Analysis (QCA) textbook [22], and a more extensive (110+) collection is available open access through the Diversity in Chemistry collection [23]. In each analytical PowerPoint, the chemists are ordered to match the content within the QCA text. As the order of subjects is similar in other analytical texts, the collection can be readily used with other books.

Each slide provides a brief background description of the chemist, their area of research (with techniques discussed in QCA in bold text), and then a brief summary of their awards or notable achievements. Figure 1 shows the PowerPoint slide about Edgar Arriaga. This slide is within the separations section (Chapter 23−26), as Dr. Arriaga’s use of capillary electrophoresis to probe biomolecular interactions is cited within Chapter 26. The bottom of each slide provides links so that interested students can learn more about the individual and their field of research. Where possible, short videos or podcasts are cited. Scientist Spotlight podcasts featuring scientists from diverse backgrounds telling a “true personal story about science” changed student perceptions about the sort of people who do science [24]. The comments section of the slide details: where the scientist is cited within the QCA textbook and/or how their research can be connected to the subject material; links to societies and support networks (either from the Other Resources collection or suggested by the individual featured); and additional suggestions for use of the slide.

Fig. 1
figure 1

PowerPoint slide sharing the personal details and accomplishments of Edgar Arriaga. The comments section highlights Arriaga’s connection to analytical lecture material and links to related societies and support networks. Photo was taken by E. Arriaga and used with his permission

People are the amalgamation of their visible identities (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, physical disability, age) and their hidden identities (e.g., religion, sexual orientation, social economic background, immigration status, veteran status, parental role, mental health, neurological diversity, color blindness). Systemic barriers can arise based on both visible and hidden identities. These include but are not limited to racism, poverty, disparities in health and education, lack of infrastructure and support, and lack of time flexibility outside of class. In Fig. 1, support groups for and showcases of LGBTQ2S+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, two-spirit, and additional sexual orientations and gender identities) scientists are provided in the source information and in the comments section. First-generation and low-income students struggle with a feeling of belonging and require additional guidance in navigating their university experience [25]. Early participation in research increases retention of underrepresented undergraduate chemists [26], but first-generation students are less aware of opportunities such as co-operative education or undergraduate research. Thus, slides for first-generation university role models such as Edgar Arriaga (Fig. 1), Luis Colón, Raychelle Burks, Matt Lockett, and James Jorgenson highlight that they are first-generation college graduates, and provide space (indicated by the red box under the photo in Fig. 1) where instructors can add information about local cooperative education or undergraduate research opportunities. Similarly, Parastoo Hashemi’s use of amperometry and voltammetry to study depression provides instructors the opportunity to add information about their university’s mental health services. As with many DEIR interventions, such activities and information will benefit all students. Finally, the 8% of male and 0.5% of female students who are colorblind find introductory analytical chemistry particularly challenging. Mark Wightman—recipient of the 2008 ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry—admits that as an undergraduate, he “always missed the end point in titrations.” His and Daniel Harris’s slides highlight some of the resources available to assist colorblind students.

Adding DEIR to your class

We envision one of the chemists from the collection being briefly discussed at the beginning of each class before the regular lecture material is introduced. In our initial implementation, the diverse chemists were introduced with no intentional connection to the current course content. Preliminary feedback from students indicated they wanted the profiles to have a stronger connection to the lecture content. Doing so resulted in positive student feedback in courses ranging from introductory chemistry to a senior medicinal chemistry course [10]: 64−97% of students said “My awareness of female and other underrepresented chemists has increased,” and 82−94% said “Learning about chemists with diverse backgrounds had a positive effect on my learning.” Student comments included [10]:

“I really liked this more than I thought I would. I found myself talking about chemistry outside of class more than I would have otherwise.”

“It was inspiring to see people of color and women chemists making a difference.”

Similarly Gee et al. [4] connected 20 female chemists and chemists of color to general chemistry topics. They coupled each chemist’s PowerPoint slide with a practice problem connecting the chemist’s work to the associated general chemistry topic. For instance, Alma Levant Hayden—the first African-American women to gain a scientific position (as a spectroscopist) at a federal science agency (profiled in the Analytical&Physical collection)—was coupled with a question on wavelength-to-frequency conversion. Gee et al. [4] also arranged their slides into a poster which was mounted just outside their classroom. A QR code linked the poster to more detailed profiles of the chemists. This intervention was well received both by students in the class and by other STEM instructors.

An alternative format for a DEIR activity is to have teams of students create a poster about an inspirational chemist [27]. Williams and Karim had teams of six general chemistry students work together for a month to create a poster focusing on an inspirational chemist and the importance of DEIR in chemistry, and present the poster in a class conference. Post-activity surveys found 86% of students agreed that the activity improved their awareness of DEIR in chemistry, and 76% agreed that they could relate to the scientist that their poster was based on. Facilitators observed some very positive discussions of DEIR amongst the teams.

Adding a short reflective response to the activity can enhance its impact by allowing students to make deeper connections with the role model. As a low-mark extra-credit assignment, Nakamura [28] had students write a ~ 300-word reflective essay after attending a 60-min community engagement talk on topics such as multiculturalism, disabilities, and LGBTQ pride. All of the students expressed positive feedback to being exposed to DEIR-related issues. A student said [28]:

“Thank you for making today an extra credit opportunity. Much like many others I went for the extra credit. However, listening to everyone’s stories about growing up and living with diversity was a little eye opening.”

Similarly, in their Scientist Spotlight intervention, Schinske et al. [29] replaced weekly textbook readings [sacrilege!] with a reading or video about a scientist’s personal history and a journal article by the scientist. Students then wrote a ~350-word reflection that addressed questions such as: What was most interesting or confusing about the articles? What did you learn about the lecture subject area from the article? What did the resources tell you about the types of people that do science? What new questions do you have after reviewing these materials? Students did 10 reflections during the course (worth 11% of the total grade) and were scored only for timeliness and word count. After the course, students expressed more non-stereotypical views of scientists which persisted for at least 6 months, and showed increased interest in science and STEM majors.

Since our initial publication [10], we have integrated a low-stakes 300−500-word writing assignment to help students connect deeper with a diverse chemist or scientist of their choosing. The writing assignment asks students to learn about and reflect on the scientist’s educational and professional background and the significance of their scientific work, to identify one of the scientist’s many accomplishments and explain why it has importance, and to explain why the student chose the scientist and connects with them. Student buy-in was near universal due—we believe—to students’ genuine interest in diversity, their freedom to choose a role model with whom they identified with or were interested in, and the low-stakes weighting of the activity. One student wrote

“I chose Ben Barres because he is a transgender scientist and doctor and I am transgender. I someday want to be a doctor. It is just really motivating to see trans people doing well in life because sometimes it feels like the entire world is out to get us.”

This quote shows the impact that explicitly addressing DEIR in the classroom can have on students. However, the Diversity in Analytical Chemistry collection and PowerPoints are but one intervention that can empower students to successfully navigate through their academic lives and discover their career path. Inclusive teaching practices reduce the performance gap within a classroom. White et al. [6] and Hupp [30] provide some tools, strategies, and example activities to foster an inclusive environment.

Active learning practices reduce the performance gap for underrepresented students in STEM [31]. Fortunately, there is a wealth of knowledge and practical tools for implementing active learning in analytical chemistry. We refer readers to the Active Learning site of the Analytical Sciences Digital Library (ASDLIB) [32], and to the recent ACS monograph on Active Learning in the Analytical Chemistry Curriculum [33] which was introduced in a recent ABC’s of Education and Professional Development article [34].


We hope that instructors find the free Diversity in Analytical Chemistry resources [22, 23] helpful in providing their students role models within the analytical sciences. We recognize that this collection represents “diversity” only from the perspective of Canada and the USA. We encourage instructors to add underrepresented role models from your country or regional perspective. Instructors are also encouraged to add diversity slides featuring local analytical chemists or analytical alumni from your college, as local role models resonate with students. We would love to have suggestions for chemists that are not currently featured on the Diversity in Chemistry site or in the PowerPoint. Suggestions can be submitted using the Google Form at or by emailing the authors.