Carol Parish with students

University of Richmond Chemistry Professor Carol Parish Will Co-Lead $300K NSF Grant-Funded Project to Support Young Chemists

Grant News

October 4, 2023
Carol Parish

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND ─ Chemistry professor Carol Parish is a co-principal investigator on a $300,000 grant through the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation Program to support young chemists.

Parish, Floyd D. and Elisabeth S. Gottwald professor of chemistry and associate provost for academic integration at the University of Richmond, is a nationally recognized leader in computational and theoretical chemistry. Her research focuses on understanding the molecular behavior of energy-related materials and biomolecules.

The NSF-MRI grant, awarded to the University of Richmond, Furman University, and Mt. Holyoke College, will expand computing resources and student training capacity for MERCURY, an NSF-funded consortium of computational chemistry faculty from primarily undergraduate institutions across the U.S. MERCURY was co-founded by Parish and her fellow co-PIs, George C. Shields of Furman University and Maria A. Gomez of Mount Holyoke College. To date, the consortium has served more than 1,000 students in their research projects and encouraged hundreds of students to pursue graduate work in chemistry or related fields.

The three-year grant will purchase a high-performance computer cluster to join existing resources hosted at Clemson University’s Palmetto Cluster HPC Center. This additional equipment will provide the opportunity to host additional undergraduate-focused research faculty and their projects. The consortium now includes nearly 50 computational scientists at 41 institutions nationwide. The support will also allow these scientists to publish results faster and investigate additional compounds as possible drug treatments or alternative energy sources. 

A large focus of this project is encouraging more students, especially women and students from traditionally underrepresented groups, to pursue studies in chemistry and other sciences. The group anticipates that about half the student researchers will pursue graduate work in STEM fields, and two-thirds are underrepresented in STEM. 

“Student involvement in carefully constructed, faculty-mentored, outcome-oriented research is the hallmark of an excellent undergraduate education in the sciences,” said Parish. “Computing is increasingly important in all fields, especially science, and MERCURY faculty are committed to producing cutting-edge research while also providing professionally meaningful training and research experiences to our students.”

Parish has taught at UR since 2005 and is frequently honored for her commitment to mentoring undergraduates and increasing the number of underrepresented students in the sciences. She was awarded the American Chemical Society 2019 Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution, the highest honor for a chemist at an undergraduate institution.