Paying it Forward -- Women in Chemistry

Paying it Forward —  Women in Chemistry

UCF senior Lauren Gandy is studying to be a chemist. She hopes to someday work with the U.S. Department of Defense to protect the nation from biological and chemical attacks.

It can be a lonely road when only 20 percent of all engineers are women and only 11 percent of women with engineering degrees actually work in the field, according to the Society of Women Engineers.

That’s one reason Gandy was thrilled to meet Cynthia McCurry, an alumna of the College of Sciences who has supported a scholarship in the college since 2001. McCurry and her siblings set up the George and Geraldine McCurry Endowed Scholarship in honor of their parents, who she said always pushed their children to invest their time in education. All three of the McCurry children received degrees from UCF.

Students of various science majors have received the scholarship over the years, but until this fall, it had been awarded just once to a chemistry major.

“I’m just so glad that there are students coming out of the school who are making a difference,” McCurry said. “I’m especially pleased that we are turning out science  majors who are women.”

McCurry earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1980 before earning her master’s in industrial chemistry in 1982. She most recently worked as an analytical chemist for Eli Lilly’s research and development division. The company has produced medicine for diabetes, heart disease and psoriasis among other diseases.

McCurry and Gandy met recently at an event the college set up to thank donors and help them see the impact they have on students who receive scholarships.

“I was fortunate to receive a scholarship last year, as well, but I didn’t get a chance to meet the donor,” Gandy said. “I think this year has been changed in so many ways because I’ve been able to meet her and see that chemists are supporting chemists. Engineers are supporting engineers. Just continuing that legacy, It’s so wonderful knowing there are people out there who I can look up to and who are supporting students like me.”

Gandy is a double major in forensic biochemistry and French. She is also pursuing two minors in chemistry and biomedical sciences. She said she decided to attend UCF because of its forensic science program and she plans on furthering her education in a biochemical doctoral program.

It took McCurry and Gandy less than two hours and one shared meal to form an emotional connection. As they neared the end of lunch they both started to tear up.

“I’m just so honored that I was able to help you in some small way,” McCurry told Gandy.

Gandy paused and replied, “Words can’t really express it.”