2021 University Awards for the Advancement of Women



By The Carolina Women’s Center

March 08, 2021

The University Awards for the Advancement of Women are sponsored annually as a collaborative effort between the Office of the Chancellor and the Carolina Women’s Center. The awards were established in 2006 and since then, nearly 50 advocates for gender equity have been recognized. Thanks to all who take the time to nominate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty and staff for their outstanding work, and congratulations to all who are nominated each year. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020 UAAW award winners were not publicly recognized last year and as a result are included in this 2021 celebration. We are pleased to share the recipients from #uncchemistry:

2021 recipients from the department of chemistry

  • Candice Crilly
    • Graduate Student Candice Crilly is a fifth-year Chemistry PhD student in Gary Pielak’s research group and a former leader of the WinSPIRE (Women in Science Promoting Inclusion in Research Experiences) organization at UNC. Candice completed her undergraduate studies at Occidental College with a B.A. in biochemistry and the first in her family to obtain a bachelor’s degree. She learned in college the value of mentorship, which inspired her to volunteer for numerous STEM outreach and mentorship opportunities throughout her academic career. In 2018, when the WinSPIRE program founder Samantha Piszkiewicz graduated, Candice stepped up to lead a team of passionate graduate student volunteers to organize, improve, and expand the then 2-year-old WinSPIRE summer research and mentorship program for woman-identifying and non-binary high school students.Under her leadership, the WinSPIRE organizational team devised and implemented innovative strategies to recruit students from less privileged backgrounds, leading to a 225% increase in program size and an over 20% increase in applications from students who would be the first in their family to attend college. Candice also worked with her fellow co-president Megan Luedeman to ensure the sustainability of WinSPIRE program by introducing a formal structure to the organizational team and by initiating partnerships with the Carolina Women’s Center, the Office of Graduate Education at UNC, and the after-school youth program StudentU in Durham. In the Fall of 2020, Candice stepped down from the co-president role to focus on completing her dissertation research, but she continues to support the program through grant-writing and meeting with potential community partners. Outside of researching biological phenomena at the molecular level and participating in STEM outreach, Candice enjoys attending concerts, hiking, and traveling.
  • Jillian L. Dempsey
    • Professor Jillian Dempsey is an Associate Professor of Chemistry and the Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor. Her research laboratory seeks to develop efficient solar energy conversion processes and she is currently the Deputy Director of the Center for Hybrid Approaches in Solar Energy to Liquid Fuels (CHASE), a Department of Energy Fuels from Sunlight Hub. She serves as the program director for the Clare Boothe Luce Fellowships for Graduate Women in Chemistry and is the co-founder of the Chemistry Women Mentorship Committee.

2020 recipient from the department of chemistry

  • Shannon Leigh Speer
    • Graduate Student Shannon Speer completed a PhD in Chemistry at UNC-CH, where she was a part of Gary Pielak’s lab. Throughout her graduate studies, she was passionate about the recruitment and promotion of women in STEM and involved with Women in Science (WinS), Allies for Minorities and Women in Science and Engineering (AM_WISE), WinSPIRE (Women in Science Promoting Inclusion in Research Experiences), and the Inspiring Meaningful Programs and Communication through Science (IMPACTS) program. As a way to target the next generation of scientists, Shannon became Director of Grant Writing and Fundraising for WinSPIRE and raised $20,000 to support young women in that program. In addition to service in the organizations mentioned, Shannon worked closely with young women in the community through tutoring and academic consulting to help promote the next generation of women in science. Since the completion of her PhD, Shannon has been working as a scientist with KBI Biopharma.