Submitted on Monday, 6/16/2014, at 12:32 PM

December 11, 2013

Chemistry student in goggles

The Henry Luce Foundation, an organization committed to broadening knowledge and encouraging the highest standards of service and leadership, has awarded Amherst College a $223,200 Clare Boothe Luce (CBL) Program grant to support summer science research opportunities for Amherst women. Tanya Leise, associate professor of mathematics, will serve as project director for the three-year grant, which will provide undergraduate research awards to a total of 24 students to undertake immersive research projects and travel to professional conferences to present their research.

The award recognizes Amherst’s success in advancing women students’ participation in mathematics, computer science, physics, physical chemistry and geology—all fields in which women are underrepresented nationally.

The CBL undergraduate research awards will enable Amherst to build on its success by further widening the pipeline for women students at Amherst who pursue fields of science in which they have typically been underrepresented. “Encouraging young women to become researchers in mathematics, computer science and the physical sciences continues to be a critically important task,” Leise explained. “While the number of female undergraduate majors in some areas, like math, has increased substantially in the U.S., the number of women scientists engaging in high-level research, such as that taking place at top-tier research universities, remains frustratingly low. We need to catch students early by engaging them in exciting research and making them feel part of a community of fellow women scientists.”

Tanya Leise, associate professor of mathematics

To meet these objectives, Amherst and the Luce Foundation will partner to immerse first- and second-year female undergraduates in research projects for 10 weeks, build a mentoring network and organize activities to foster a sense of community among participating faculty and students. “This sense of community is particularly important to overcome the stereotype of research as a lonely, isolated endeavor and also to provide a group of role models of peers and faculty for young women aspiring to become scientists,” said Leise. “Seeing that they can succeed in—and, in fact, enjoy—research in mathematics, computer science and the physical sciences can make the difference in deciding whether to pursue a similar research career.”

Since 1989, the CBL Program has funded undergraduate research awards, fellowships and professorships for female students and professors, including a professorship in 1997 for Amherst’s geology professor Anna Martini. CBL Program grants represent the single most significant source of private support for women in science, mathematics and engineering in the U.S. Clare Boothe Luce was a playwright, a journalist, a U.S. Ambassador to Italy and the first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut. Luce established the CBL program “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate and teach” in science, mathematics and engineering.