Alexander Umanzor receives Merck Research Award for Underrepresented Chemists of Color

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (07/20/2023) – Chemistry PhD candidate Alexander Umanzor has recently received the Merck Research Award for Underrepresented Chemists of Color. The award recognizes chemistry researchers from historically underrepresented backgrounds for both their scientific advancement and commitment to service and mentorship of other underrepresented scientists. 

Umanzor is a fourth year graduate student in the Roberts Group. He joined the University of Minnesota community in 2020 after completing his BS in Chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research in the Roberts Group is focused on developing regioselective late transition metal aryne complex difunctionalizations. Umanzor’s dedication to research and teaching has been previously recognized by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and the Spring 2022 Outstanding Graduate TA Award from the Council of Graduate Students.

Umanzor’s PhD advisor Courtney Roberts says, “Alex deserves this award more than anyone I know! It has been a joy to see all that he has accomplished in both his research and outreach efforts. His passion for both make him an excellent role model for other underrepresented chemists of color.”

When he’s not in the lab working on his catalysis research, Umanzor is deeply involved in the departmental Diversity & Inclusion committee, where he is a co-lead on the graduate student training working group with Prof. Aaron Massari and a member of the inclusive classrooms working group. He was one of the recipients of the inaugural Department of Chemistry Diversity & Inclusion Award in 2021. Umanzor also mentors undergraduates from historically excluded groups through several mentorship programs such as Científico Latino and the Haynes Group's Underrepresented Students in STEM Symposium-Twin Cities).

The Merck Research Award for Underrepresented Chemists of Color was established in 2021 to “create a supportive, inclusive networking environment for rising chemists of color.” The award program matches students with both a scientist and an executive-level mentor at Merck, and includes travel funds to attend a Merck symposium where the awardees will present their research and tour the facilities. Merck & Co. – a research-intensive biopharmaceutical company​ headquartered in Rahway, NJ – also sponsors the annual Jeannette Brown Lectureship at the University of Minnesota.