McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Ipsita Banerjee, PhD, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is the recipient of the School’s 2019 Faculty Diversity Award.
“It would be an understatement to say that Ipsita earnestly strives each year to improve the academic environment fostering the success of under-represented minority students at the graduate, undergraduate and high school levels,” says McGowan Institute faculty member Steven Little, PhD, department chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School.
The Faculty Diversity Award Committee cited Dr. Banerjee’s accomplishments as:
- Commitment to community engagement through active participation in INVESTING NOW program, as well as collaboration the Carnegie Science Center and REU programs;
- Leadership and mentorship for women in STEM, through participation in the Women in STEM Conferences and AlChE Women’s Initiative Committee (WIC);
- Recognized excellence in mentorship, including the 2016 Summer Research Internship (SRI) Faculty Mentor Award by PITT EXCEL program;
- Service to the Swanson School in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students through various internal and external programs.
Beyond her work with organizations on campus, Dr. Banerjee devotes time and effort into programs like the Carnegie Science Center’s CanTEEN Career Exploration Program, sharing her experience with middle school girls and encouraging them to pursue an education in STEM. She has also been involved with the Women Student Networking conference, AlChE Women’s Initiatives Committee, and in panels for Women in Science and Medicine organized by UPMC.
In addition to the award, Dr. Banerjee will receive a $2,000 grant and induction into the Office of Diversity’s Champions for Diversity Honor Roll.
Dr. Banerjee’s mentees endorsed her nomination for this award because of her thoughtful support, encouragement and motivation. Her own professional success, they noted, makes her a valuable role model for other women and under-represented minorities in STEM.
“Being a Hispanic woman in the field of science and technology, it is sometimes hard to find examples of other women and/or minorities who have gone through the process of pursuing a career in academia with as much success as Dr. Banerjee has,” says Dr. Maria Jaramillo, a senior scientist at IVIVA Medical and the first graduate student to work with Dr. Banerjee at Pitt. She adds that Dr. Banerjee’s help and encouragement to network, collaborate with other scientists at Pitt and beyond, and present her research are among the things that have been most influential to her career. “These opportunities were instrumental for the continuance of my career in academia, and even today, several years after finishing my PhD under her supervision, Dr. Banerjee still provides great support.”
“Dr. Banerjee embodies the phrase ‘women empowering women,’” says Brittany Givens Rassoolkhani, a former PITT EXCEL Summer Research Intern who is now a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa. “Throughout my time working with her, it was apparent that she was both brilliant and dedicated. Most importantly, I was encouraged to also be dedicated and brilliant in my own work via the way she mentored myself and other students in the laboratory.”
Not only did Dr. Banerjee’s mentorship inspire her students to conduct their own research and find their professional paths, but it also inspired them to be better mentors themselves. Brittany Givens Rassolkhani notes that now she is also a mentor and never forgot the lessons Dr. Banerjee taught.
“Throughout this process, Dr. Banerjee has been instrumental in reminding me how important it is as a woman, particularly a woman of color, in the sciences and engineering to be cultivated in an environment that encourages women to be equal, if not better than, their male counterparts,” she says. “Dr. Banerjee never let my goals be big and scary, as I so often saw them; instead, in her eyes our goals as researchers were always achievable. I hope that when I become a professor and start my own laboratory, I am able to provide even half as much support to and faith in my students as I witnessed from Dr. Banerjee.”
Congratulations, Dr. Banerjee!
Illustration: University of Pittsburgh Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.