University of San Diego. Photo credit: USD

Eight female science and technology professionals will become University of San Diego professors, an attempt by the school to establish the campus as a model for diversity in the traditionally male field.

“This is a very exciting development for the university,” said President Mary E. Lyons in a news release. “This outstanding group of professors will inspire more young women to enter these fields and also collaborate on cutting-edge research across their respective disciplines.”

Creation of the group, which will find a home in the College of Arts and Sciences and Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, came about because of a five-year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The foundation, according to USD officials, designated the funding for the female professors “to increase the participation and advancement of female faculty in the STEM and social science fields.” STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“Women, especially those of color, are underrepresented in the STEM disciplines nationally. Here at USD, we are committed to creating a new norm,” said Andrew T. Allen, university vice president and provost.

The new faculty includes a professor who has helped shape software for nuclear power plants and one who has studied how evolution influences aging and development.

Joan Schellinger, who hails from the Philippines and is a chemistry professor, said mentoring is key because she had female graduate school advisor and post-doctoral supervisors.

Schellinger, who studies peptides, molecules that have varied applications in developing therapies, said she is also excited to begin work with the other STEM professors. “I see great potential” in collaboration involving biology, neuroscience and engineering, she said.

Other new USD faculty members that are part of the grant are:

  • Jessica Bell, PhD, Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Molly Burke, PhD, Biology
  • Odesma Dalrymple, Industrial Engineering
  • Imane Khalil, PhD, Mechanical Engineering
  • Jennifer Prairie, PhD, Environmental and Ocean Sciences
  • Amanda Ruiz, PhD, Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Divya Sitaraman, PhD, Psychological Science

A report last year by the NSF indicate that women represent fewer than 25 percent of full-time professors in science and engineering fields. The numbers are worse for women of color – they hold less than than six percent of those jobs.

USD officials said they had initially focused on hiring just two new professors, but attracted such a strong field they increased the number four-fold. Their efforts are attracting attention for other campuses seeking to increase diversity.

Sue Rosser, a member of the external review board for the $600,000 grant, and provost and vice president for academic affairs at San Francisco State University, credited USD with setting “a new paradigm for establishing a hiring process that more closely meets the goals of this university,” she said.

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