IUPUI chemistry graduate student recognized for volunteerism

Christine Skaggs led efforts to distribute 'COVID-19 chemistry kits' to more than 200 underserved children in Indianapolis

An IUPUI graduate student's efforts to help children from underserved populations in Indianapolis has been recognized by her professional society.

Christine Skaggs, a graduate student in chemistry at the School of Science at IUPUI, was recently named the Global Outreach Volunteer of the Year by the American Chemical Society, or ACS.

The honor, which recognizes "the immeasurable efforts made by volunteers from ACS local sections and international chapters to conduct outreach and teach the public about chemistry," cites Skaggs' work as the secretary of the Indianapolis section of ACS as well as her work as chair of COVID-19 Chemistry Kits for Kids, which distributed resource kits including masks, hand sanitizers and winter accessories to more than 200 students from underserved populations in Indianapolis.

Of the 36 outreach volunteer awardees this year, Skaggs was the only individual selected for the special honor of ACS Global Outreach Volunteer of the Year.

"ACS allows me to bridge my two passions, which are chemistry and outreach," Skaggs said. "We want to be able to provide resources to those who need them, and it's very rewarding to be able to give back, even if it's in a small way."

COVID-19 Chemistry Kits for Kids was conducted in partnership with the American Chemical Society; Asphalt Materials; the Bruker Corporation; Butler University; Corteva Inc.; Eli Lilly and Co; The Heritage Research Group; Hotel Tango; IUPUI; the IUPUI Graduate Student Chemistry Society, MOLE; the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers; and the University of Indianapolis. Skaggs worked with Linda Osborn, a senior project chemist at the Heritage Research Group, to coordinate contributions from these organizations across the city.

IUPUI graduate student volunteers pack COVID-19 Chemistry Kits for KidsView print quality image
From left: IUPUI students Courtney Cruse, Carolina Vega and Mikayla Metzger assemble COVID-19 Chemistry Kits for Kids on the IUPUI campus. Photo courtesy of Christine Skaggs

The kits contained reusable, custom-sized masks; hand sanitizer; snacks; activity booklets with crayons; a hand-washing demo; hats and gloves; a folder with resources on COVID-19 for parents; water bottles; Post-It notes; pencils; keychains; stress balls; goggles; and soap.

Assembly took place over the course of two days in July at the Science Building on the IUPUI campus. School of Science graduate students Courtney Cruse, Kymeri Davis, Mikayla Metzger, Lauren Mehok, Ashur Rael, Carolina Vega and Hannah Zimmerman were among the volunteers.

The kits were then transported to Heritage Research Group, a privately held, family-owned environmental services business located near Eagle Creek in northwest Indianapolis, whose volunteers distributed the kits in the community in October.

The overall response from the community was overwhelming, and we were able to double the number of kits we assembled due to the support from our sponsors," Skaggs said. "The encouragement this project was given made me proud to call Indianapolis my home; I wanted to give back to a city that has given so much to me."

Skaggs is also the founder of ACS Indiana's Senior Chemists Mentorship Program, which connects senior chemists with younger scientists, and she has been actively involved in the annual Celebrate Science Indiana festival.

The full list of awardees is published in Chemical and Engineering News. Winners were also recognized during the annual ChemLuminary Awards ceremony, which took place virtually Dec. 9.