Destini Coleman has wanted to study biology since she was a kid in Englewood glued to the Animal Planet channel. “Even then, I was always interested in knowing more and knowing why about everything,” she said.
Now earning her associate degree at Richard J. Daley College with a plan to transfer to the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Coleman is one of sixteen City Colleges of Chicago students in the first cohort of an introduction to molecular engineering course at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago.
The course, designed to open pathways for more City Colleges students to transfer into four-year STEM degree programs, has been part of PME’s mission since the school’s 2019 launch with a $100 million commitment from the Pritzker Foundation.
“Some of our first conversations were about how we could show our commitment to the city by broadening the pipeline of underrepresented Chicago students into STEM majors and professions,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of Pritzker Molecular Engineering and the Robert A. Millikan Distinguished Service Professor. “As the nation’s first school of molecular engineering, PME is uniquely positioned to introduce students to this emerging field.”
According to the National Science Foundation, in 2016 underrepresented minority students earned 22% of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees and 9% of doctoral degrees; in 2017, nearly 70% of full-time scientists and engineers were white. PME’s work to diversify those numbers also includes a number of educational outreach programs for K–12 students, including lab internships for students in the After School Matters program and a summer molecular engineering class for students in UChicago’s Collegiate Scholars Program.
A course tailored to students’ needs
The collaboration between City Colleges and UChicago is a true partnership, according to City Colleges Chancellor Juan Salgado. “City Colleges’ partnership with the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering offers our students exposure to world-class researchers in a cutting-edge field and helps create a pipeline of diverse and talented professionals for a transformative sector of our city’s economy,” he said. “I can’t wait to see how this innovative collaboration between City Colleges and UChicago faculty and staff grows over time.”