Los AngelesAssociate Professor of Chemistry
California State University, Los Angeles Professor Krishna Foster, Ph.D., is determined to make careers in the STEM fields more accessible— especially to students of color.
“There’s not a lot of inclusive representation of different groups as scientists,” says Dr. Foster. “So you can imagine being a new scientist—a chemistry major—and if you don’t see people that look like you, it can be quite intimidating.”
Since she arrived at Cal State LA in 2000, Foster has sought grants for Minorities Opportunities in Research (MORE), which raises funding specifically to encourage students of color to achieve a doctorate in STEM fields. MORE has sent more than 120 students to Ph.D. programs in the last 20 years, including 10 from Foster’s lab.
Foster aims to humanize science. She strenuously objects, for example, to the practice adopted by some universities of slotting chemistry and math under the term “traditionally difficult courses.”
“Chemistry and the math that supports it are both stigmatized,” she says. Foster has seen again and again how changing her students’ perception of these subjects can transform how well they do in her classes.
Foster’s efforts to raise grant money have helped lift Cal State LA, and Foster, to national recognition. The campus was lauded among bachelor’s- and master’s-granting institutions in the U.S. as the No. 1 producer of Latino/Latina students who go on to earn a Ph.D. in science and engineering.
The accolades are nice, she says, but it’s all secondary to giving her students greater access to a degree—and eventually, a job—in the STEM fields. “You’re taking a whole group of people and bringing them into the trained workforce to become professionals” says Foster. “To see that realized is incredibly gratifying.”