NAU chemistry professor Jani Ingram receives national award for recruiting, mentoring underrepresented students in STEM disciplines

Jani Ingram in lab

Jani Ingram, a professor of analytical and environmental chemistry at Northern Arizona University, received the American Chemical Society (ACS) Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences.

The prestigious award recognizes Ingram “for her outstanding accomplishments in recruiting and mentoring students from underrepresented groups, especially American Indians and Alaskan Natives, into professional careers in chemistry,” according to ACS.

Ingram investigates environmental contaminants on lands owned by the Navajo Nation—specifically, uranium and arsenic—with respect to their impact on health. As lead principal investigator of the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention, she focuses on finding solutions to cancer disparities among Native Americans while also preparing the next generation of researchers. Recruiting Navajo and other indigenous students to work with her on the research is an important part of Ingram’s approach.

“I hope to see the number of Native Americans with Ph.D.s in chemistry increase by a factor of 100 over the next decade,” Ingram, who is a member of the Navajo Nation, told Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), a publication of the ACS. “There are not many of us now, so I believe that such a large increase is possible with the opportunities that exist as well as the issues that need to be addressed by people within Native American communities.”

Her work has been funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Laura Foster Huenneke, former NAU provost and emeritus professor of earth sciences and environmental sustainability, praised Ingram for her contributions.

“American Indian and Alaskan Native (AIAN) professionals are the most severely underrepresented U.S. racial or ethnic group in STEM disciplines, and successful degree completion for even a few individuals can impact national totals,” she told C&EN. “Over her time at NAU, Dr. Ingram has directly or indirectly recruited and mentored more than 200 AIAN students in chemistry and related STEM disciplines, at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Her identity as one of a handful of our native faculty in the sciences has been a magnet for minority students, and her insights into academic and cultural barriers have shaped her highly effective approach to mentoring.”

Ingram will be honored, along with other award recipients, at the ACS national meeting in New Orleans March 18-22.

NAU Communications