Monterey Bay

Achieving Sustainability, Diversity Goals in STEM




​John Goeltz, assistant professor in the Department of Biology and Chemistry has built the Laboratory for Applied Electrochemistry at CSUMB as a pipeline for talented undergraduates to pursue competitive graduate programs and STEM careers in the physical sciences. His resourceful leadership and contributions toward preparing students for success embody CSUMB’s visi​on to serve the diverse people of California. 

“The opportunity to train a diverse group of talented young scientists in electrochemistry while working toward improved energy technologies has been, to be frank, a whole lot of fun,” Dr. Goeltz said. 

“Every morning, I come in to work thinking I’ve found new challenges to spur my undergraduate researchers to grow as scientists and as people, but every evening I go home thinking that’s what they’ve given me.” 

Dr. Goeltz joined CSUMB’s School of Natural Sciences in 2015. The following year, he received from the California State University a faculty incentive grant to support the applied electrochemistry research in his lab. The research aims to enable faster battery-charging capabilities and overcharge protection. The findings led to a nonprovisional patent application for a hydroxide selective electrode in 2017. 

In addition to research success, his team developed a three-hour, hands-on training module that takes undergraduate scientists beyond the scope of electrochemistry taught in general chemistry. 

The module was first offered by Goeltz and CSUMB undergraduate Parker Smith during the summer of 2017. It trained eight Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) students who were conducting summer research at CSUMB. 

The training program was so successful that Sonoma State’s chemistry department requested it for spring of 2018. The team also presented the program at the American Chemical Society Fall National Meeting in San Diego in 2019. 

Goeltz has mentored more than 20 CSUMB undergraduate researchers and secured funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support up to three students at a time in his lab through August 2021. 

The grant will also support the expansion of his general chemistry workshops and allow CSUMB student researchers access to cutting-edge nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology at UC Santa Cruz. It’s a significant opportunity because CSUMB does not currently have access to NMR scientific instrumentation. 

In developing his lab, Goeltz has encountered some challenges and increased needs for support that he understands he cannot fill alone. He has turned to campus resources such as the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Center (UROC) to fill some of the lab’s needs. 

“Training young scientists to practice communicating their work effectively is a critical piece of broadening the STEM pipeline with respect to underrepresented groups and first-generation college students,” he said. 

“By engaging with CSUMB’s Office of Inclusive Excellence, I have ensured that my recruiting has been inclusive while I also work toward the ultimate goal of increasing underrepresented populations in STEM.” 

​“Of the undergraduates I have mentored up to this point, 60 percent have been female and 50 percent have been from traditionally underrepresented groups, and both of those numbers are a strong representation of CSUMB’s overall population. It is essential that I facilitate training of whole scientists in a way that is inclusive to all backgrounds,” he added. ​