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National Organization Recognizes UB Professor's Efforts To Boost Minority Participation in Chemical Sciences

Release Date: June 2, 2010

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UB chair of chemistry Luis A. Colon is receiving the American Chemical Society's Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Promotion of Diversity.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The American Chemical Society has selected Luis A. Colón, PhD, professor and chair of the University at Buffalo Department of Chemistry, as recipient of the Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Promotion of Diversity.

Colón will receive the award on June 4th during the 37th Northeast Regional Meeting of the ACS at the State University of New York Potsdam campus. The award recognizes individuals and institutions that have advanced diversity in the chemical sciences and fostered activities promoting inclusiveness.

Since joining the UB faculty in 1993, Colón has overseen an array of initiatives to bring minority undergraduates and graduate students to the university. His efforts have helped dozens of scholars from his native Puerto Rico pursue their interest in science through opportunities in Western New York.

Colón, an analytical chemist, has arranged for Hispanic undergraduates to participate in summer research in the chemistry department every year since 1997. In the beginning, he used his own resources, with some support from the National Science Foundation, to bring Puerto Rican students to Buffalo. Part of his goal was to ease the difficult transition for young people who faced the prospect of attending college or graduate school thousands of miles away from their families.

More than 20 students from Puerto Rico have taken part in summer research at UB with Colón or with other chemistry faculty members inspired by his example. Many participants have enrolled in advanced degree programs. Colón's work laid the foundation for the Department of Chemistry's NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates.

Colón has also mentored undergraduates from underrepresented groups, including students with disabilities, and supported the American Chemical Society Scholars Program, which offers scholarships to underrepresented minority students in the chemical sciences.

At the graduate level, Colón, who earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey, has established a pipeline to assist UB in recruiting Cayey graduates. He is a member of the advisory committee to the Arthur A. Schomberg Fellowship Program, which helps underrepresented minorities in graduate programs at UB, and serves as a research mentor for Schomberg fellows. He has worked with the NSF-SUNY Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and the SUNY Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, which encourages PhDs from underrepresented groups to seek faculty positions.

Colón's efforts have catalyzed an increase in diversity within his department, which has conferred 12 advanced degrees to Hispanic students in the past decade, many of whom have gone into industrial or academic positions in the chemical sciences.

The Stanley C. Israel Regional Award consists of a medal, a $1,000 grant to further promote diversity and funding to cover travel expenses to the meeting at which the award is presented. Other accolades Colón has received for promoting diversity include the 2009 AAAS Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the 2004 Faculty Mentor of the Year Award from the Compact for Faculty Diversity.

Colón's research focuses on chemical analysis at the micro/nano scales, the development of new materials for chemical separations, environmental chemistry and bioanalytical chemistry, especially developing new methodology to analyze biological samples, such as saliva and tears and their potential use in clinical diagnostics.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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