They dubbed themselves the “organic women.” But they didn’t hug trees or eat granola in class. Instead they studied the make up and behaviors of complex carbon molecules.
The six women made North Idaho College history this spring by becoming the first all-female organic chemistry class.
“Many students will look at the prerequisites for a chosen field and change careers the instant they see organic chemistry listed—not this group of ladies,” said NIC Microbiology Instructor Rhena Cooper, who helped mentor the women although the class was taught by NIC Chemistry Instructor Jim Jeitler. “Dr. Jeitler and I are so proud of them for supporting one another, bonding and sticking to their guns.”
Traditionally, women are not the forerunners for careers in science and mathematics fields. In 1999, women accounted for only 24 percent of the science and engineering workforce, according to a 2002 study by the National Science Foundation.
However, the number of women in science-related careers is on the rise and that’s a pattern that the women of NIC’s most recent organic chemistry class want to see continue. Last semester during a visit to Lakes Middle School, the class prepared a number of exciting and visual chemistry demonstrations for Career Day to help the students get excited about science.
Cooper said the NIC students wanted to inspire the middle schoolers—especially the girls—to pursue their science dreams.
“You can do anything you set your mind to,” the women of the NIC organic chemistry class told the young students. “Girls are good at math and science. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.”
All six women completed the organic chemistry class this spring.
Machele Gonzalez, a graduate of Highland High School in Pocatello, Idaho, received both the George and Dorothy Carlson Memorial Scholarship and an Associated Students of NIC scholarship from NIC. She is currently completing an Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) internship at Kootenai Medical Center in microbiology before transferring to the University of Idaho this fall.
Laura Grinnel, a graduate of Upper Columbia Academy in Spangle, Wash., hopes to be accepted to the veterinary school of medicine at Washington State University after she transfers there this fall.
Veronica Hendricks, a graduate of Kootenai High School in Harrison, Idaho, received the Outstanding Freshman Chemistry Award at NIC and secured two INBRE internships, one at Accurate Testing Laboratory and one with BNAL at the University of Idaho Research Park. She earned an INBRE fellowship at Boise State University this summer and will transfer to the University of Idaho this fall.
Cynthia Lucas, a graduate of Southeast High School in Wichita, Kansas, earned scholarships from the Idaho Academy of Science and Sunshine Mines while at NIC. She also worked in the laboratory of SVL Analytical in Kellogg, Idaho for the summer. She plans to continue working before transferring to a four-year institution.
Kati Warner, a graduate of Piedmont High School in California, has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of California—Berkley, but her passion is veterinary medicine, so she has been working on the requirements for application to a veterinary program. She currently volunteers at Prairie Animal Hospital and River City Animal Hospital.
Christin Winniford, a graduate of Lake City High School in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is still taking classes at NIC in hopes of eventually transferring to the University of Idaho. She is an active member of the NIC Madrigal Singers and a recipient of the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium Undergraduate Scholarship. She was also an INBRE intern at Coeur d’Alene Cellars and presented her experience at the Idaho Academy of Science statewide conference.
The women of this spring’s organic chemistry class at North Idaho College gather for a photo. Pictured are NIC students Veronica Hendricks, Kati Warner, Laura Grinnel, Machele Gonzalez, NIC Chemistry Instructor Jim Jeitler and Cynthia Lucas. Christin Winniford is not pictured.