“I still wake up mornings and think, ‘I’ve got a Ph.D. in chemistry. How cool is that?’”
Without mentors, says Judith Iriarte-Gross, she would have never become a chemist. She talks about the importance of encouragement, the necessity of taking science classes early on in school, and how the periodic table is like a candy store.
Iriarte-Gross is a professor of chemistry at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and director of the university’s new Women in STEM Center. She earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry from the University of Maryland, College Park, and her Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of South Carolina. Before joining MTSU she worked as a chemist for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and in the plastics industry. Iriarte-Gross is nationally known for her advocacy for encouraging girls and women in careers in the sciences. She was named an Association for Women in Science Fellow in 2009, is currently co-president of the Tennessee chapter, and represents the organization on the national Champions Board of the National Girls Collaborative Project. A former Upward Bound student, she received the TRIO Achievers Award for Washington, D.C., in 2010. She is an active member and councilor of the American Chemical Society. She also introduced Tennessee to the award-winning Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) conference and has directed the MTSU EYH conference since 1996.