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Promoting Success in the Sciences
While growing up in Ghana, UAlbany associate professor of Chemistry Rabi Musah was fascinated by "traditional healers," who prescribed herbs to those with ailing health. She was intrigued, knowing that the chemicals in plants were responsible for therapeutic effects. It's what motivated Musah's career path in organic chemistry.
"These treatment methods seemed to work for many people. I became interested in trying to figure out what these molecules might be, and how they might be used to treat various diseases," said Musah.
Her curiosity led her to study organic and biochemistry in undergraduate and graduate school, where she also discovered a strong penchant for tutoring. It was only natural that Musah ultimately sought a career in teaching organic chemistry and helping young people succeed in the sciences.
"One of the things I like about teaching is observing the discovery process," said Musah, who joined UAlbany's Department of Chemistry in 1998. "It is an enriching experience for me to observe people as they come to recognize something for the first time."
As a new teacher, Musah realized that many students didn't share her interest in science and math. Instead, they shied away from those fields, intimidated by their perceived complexities. Musah became focused on changing that mentality.
She encouraged high school students to consider science, math, technology and engineering (STEM) fields through a summer program with show-and-tell science experiments. Now, Musah is teaming up with her UAlbany colleagues to establish the Center for Achievement, Retention and Academic Success (CARSS), designed to encourage college students to study and pursue careers in STEM fields.
Supported by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, CARSS aims to strengthen the U.S. workforce and research sectors and provide a model program for the nation's higher education institutions to combat the problem of low enrollment in STEM majors.
Musah firmly believes that curriculum and guidance from mentors can foster an interest in STEM. Through those fields, young people can play an important part in resolving global issues.
"Through sound training in science and math, the quality of life of all the world's citizens can be dramatically enhanced," said Musah.