• Chemistry professor Emily Niemeyer has been an inspiration to female students considering careers in the sciences. (Photo ...
    Chemistry professor Emily Niemeyer has been an inspiration to female students considering careers in the sciences. (Photo by FJ Gaylor)

A Southwestern University chemistry professor has been recognized for serving as a role model to young women hoping to pursue careers in math and science.

Emily Niemeyer is one of six women who have been named Outstanding Texas Women in STEM by Girlstart, a organization that offers after-school programming to encourage girls in grades 4-8 to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The award recognizes women who have “made it” in the traditionally male-dominated STEM fields, said Tamara Hudgins, executive director of Girlstart. Other award recipients are Dr. Susan M. Cox, regional dean of The University of Texas Medical School; Lisa Lucero from the Governor’s Commission for Women; Charlotte Vick from the Sylvia Earle Alliance; Geophysicist Bertha Bermudez; and Google Global Science Fair winner Shree Bose.

The award recipients will be honored at Girlstart’s annual luncheon in Austin Oct. 17.

“The six women we’ve chosen to recognize show what’s possible for women who dedicate themselves to pursuing STEM knowledge,” Hudgins said. “The differences they’re making in a diverse range of STEM fields are truly inspiring to all of us at Girlstart.”

Niemeyer has been a member of the Southwestern faculty since 1998. She has served as chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and has also participated in the department’s summer research program for undergraduate students. Throughout her teaching career at Southwestern, Niemeyer has taken her students to local elementary schools to do experiments that get children excited about chemistry.

In 2011, Niemeyer started a summer program at Southwestern called STEPS for high school students who are interested in science. She was instrumental in helping Southwestern land a $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2012 to transform its science curriculum and currently serves as co-director of the HHMI-Southwestern Inquiry Initiative.

Over the next four years, this initiative will help Southwestern overhaul its science curriculum to make it more engaging and enriching for students through a technique known as inquiry-based learning, or student-centered learning. The initiative is designed to encourage students to persist with careers in the sciences.

Niemeyer has received Southwestern’s Excellence in Academic Advising Award and the Exemplary Teaching Award from the Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. In May 2013, she was appointed to the Herbert and Kate Dishman Chair in Science.

“I think Professor Niemeyer has been an outstanding role model and mentor to young women interested in STEM,” said Alexis Kropf, a 2012 Southwestern graduate who spent the 2012-2013 academic year working with Niemeyer on the HHMI initiative. “She represents balance, dedication  and enthusiasm − all necessary qualities to succeed as a professor and chemist. Not only does she seek to constantly improve her teaching style to better educate and animate students, she has worked tirelessly with the HHMI-Southwestern Inquiry Initiative to promote innovative teaching practices across the Natural Sciences Division. She certainly has inspired me!”