Montclair researcher receives national award

March 21, 2000

Recognized for encouraging women to pursue careers in chemistry

Chemist Valerie J. Kuck of Montclair, N.J., will be honored on March 28 by the world's largest scientific society for her efforts to inspire female student-researchers to know they can do anything in science. She will receive the American Chemical Society Award for Encouraging Women in Careers in the Chemical Sciences at the Society's 219th national meeting in San Francisco.

"Along the way in my career, I struggled with a number of issues," said Kuck, a materials chemist for Bell Laboratories, the research and developmental arm of Lucent Technologies. "Two in particular were building my career as a woman scientist and balancing my work and family.

"So when these young people came along and I could see the joy they found in chemistry," she continued, "I thought why not? I wanted to do anything I could to help them live their dreams."

To that end, Kuck has taken dozens of women interns under her wing since joining Bell Labs in 1967. She has mentored them in research projects, such as improving protective coatings for optical fibers. She will also help them choose graduate schools, research advisers and career options: "Simply put, how can you best use your talents?" she summarized.

Many women need to be more assertive in demonstrating leadership skills, Kuck said. To those who feel shy or intimidated, she suggests they "try to make small steps forward. Find a niche where you're comfortable, volunteer in some small way -- and then most importantly, do it."

In nominating Kuck for the award, Bell Labs department head Xina Quan wrote: "Valerie is a change agent who can move mountains, and one of the mountains she has targeted is making chemistry an attractive career option for women."

Kuck credits her father and mother -- a musician and an artist with interest in science -- with giving her the resolution to be different. "By that I mean they encouraged me not to just fall into what most every woman was doing in the 50s," she said.

The ACS Award for Encouraging Women in Careers in the Chemical Sciences is sponsored by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Inc. of New York, N.Y.
A nonprofit organization with a membership of 161,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

American Chemical Society

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