Founded more than a decade ago, the Michigan Chemistry Opportunities for Research and Education (MCORE) preview visit now serves more students than ever. It has grown threefold but never lost its focus on broadening the recruitment of graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds by connecting students with the chemistry community.

Every fall, approximately 15-20 prospective graduate students are accepted to preview the Michigan Chemistry Department. During the two-day, no-cost visit, applicants stay on campus and have opportunities to speak with current graduate students and faculty about daily life in the program, research opportunities, and tips for applying to graduate schools. These students are hosted by current grad students that are often MCORE alumni themselves, a testament to the program’s longevity. The program is championed by a group of faculty, staff, and graduate students that are united by their desire to demystify graduate school in chemistry and support future generations of students.

A first real insight into chemistry Ph. D. programs

For some students, the MCORE program is their first real insight into chemistry Ph. D. programs. First-generation students, immigrants, and students from regional universities or primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs) often have little exposure to the types of research-intensive chemistry programs common at larger universities such as the University of Michigan.

Guillermo Rodrigo Vazquez is a junior at Northern Arizona University and participated in MCORE this past November. Due to a lack of chemistry research labs at his school, he participated in a summer of research through an NSF-REU program where he learned the “basics” of grad school. He was then encouraged to apply to the MCORE preview weekend by a trusted professor, and the experience cemented his desire to apply to graduate school in chemistry next year. Reflecting on how he and many of his peers are only exposed to professional graduate programs like medical school, Vazquez remarked “…not a lot of people know about [graduate school in] chemistry, so that’s something we need to do more for undergrads.” 

Nils Walter

A diverse set of views to bring about the best science we can do

One faculty member that helped establish the program is Professor Nils Walter. His recruiting efforts for the department have been guided by the idea that “the breadth of ideas is what drives modern science. As a consequence, we all have realized over time how important a diverse set of views is… to bring about the best science we can do.”

While originally started with just a few students and their mentors from local partner schools, the MCORE program has grown steadily over the years. Now, an average of 15-20 undergraduate students from across the country participate in the annual visit with Michigan Chemistry.

This unique form of engagement that emphasizes community-building between current and prospective graduate students and faculty has resulted in an increase from less than 5% to about 20% enrollment of underrepresented group participation in the graduate program, according to Walter.

Madeline Clough


Current graduate student and former MCORE participant Madeline Clough says her firsthand experience with the lack of opportunities to learn about Ph. D. programs is one of the main driving forces behind her continued involvement as a student host for the program. “MCORE was the first eye-opening experience of what graduate school looks like. Thinking about students who maybe don’t have that resource, like me… It’s nice to show other people what graduate school actually looks like.”

Walter notes that this “feedback loop” of positive experiences and fellowship amongst students that have participated in the program “has really improved the way we can think about diversity and inclusion across all groups.”

An expanded network

Another highlight for many prospective students is feeling welcomed by members of the U-M Chemistry department. Though graduate student hosts serve as primary points of contact, prospective students also attend dinners and social events with other graduate students and faculty members during the preview weekend, including a tour of the Big House. Many come away from the experience with an expanded chemistry network consisting of faculty members, current graduate students, and even fellow visiting students; many of the students from the most recent MCORE cohort stayed in touch and kept each other updated throughout their graduate school application journeys.

As MCORE participant Amir Johnson-Sammy, now a senior at Ohio State University, explains, “I felt like I had a lot of time to connect with all the other people that were visiting, and it just felt more intimate, and I liked that. We each got to meet pretty much one on one, if not two on one with the professors that we wanted to meet with. So that was pretty cool.”

Though graduate enrollment in science and engineering is slowly increasing for women and racial and ethnic minorities, many students are still searching for more meaningful engagement with those with similar experiences to them in the chemistry community. MCORE’s focus on broadening graduate student recruitment makes a meaningful difference to students when they get to campus and spend the a few days with people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

MCORE participant Daniel Godoy, a senior at Lawrence University and first-generation college student, says this representation is why he recommends the program to other historically underrepresented groups in chemistry. “I got to meet other Hispanics in chemistry, [who] are not very common in my institution here. So, I would really recommend it for everyone, but specifically people with those identities because seeing them in person and seeing that we’re all in that group trying to learn about grad school was really nice.”

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Join us this Fall!

If you are a junior or senior in college interested in pursuing a Ph. D. in Chemistry, look for the MCORE program application to open later this summer. The Fall 2024 visit is scheduled for November 6-8.