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Raychelle Burks

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Raychelle Burks
Burks speaks in 2019
Alma materUniversity of Northern Iowa

Nebraska Wesleyan University

University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Scientific career
FieldsAnalytical chemistry
InstitutionsAmerican University, Associate Professor, 2020 – Present
St. Edward's University, Assistant Professor, 2016 – 2020
Doane College, Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2013 – 2015

Raychelle Burks is an associate professor of analytical chemistry at American University in Washington, D.C., and science communicator, who has regularly appeared on the Science Channel. In 2020, the American Chemical Society awarded her the Grady-Stack award for her public engagement excellence.[1]

Early life and education


Burks developed an interest in forensic chemistry when she was 12 after a field trip that presented students with a science interaction challenge, asking students to solve a real-world problem using science.[2] Burks earned her BS in chemistry at the University of Northern Iowa, her MSc in Forensic Science at Nebraska Wesleyan University, her PhD in chemistry from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, and was a postdoctoral research associate at the Doane College.[3]

Career and research


Burks became an assistant professor of chemistry at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, in 2016, where she taught and conducted research until 2020. She then moved to Washington, D.C., to join the faculty at American University as an associate professor of chemistry.[4]

Her current research centers on developing low-cost colorimetric sensors for detecting chemicals of forensic interest including explosives and illicit drugs.[5][6][7][8][9] To maximize portability in the field, her group focuses on transforming smartphones into detection devices.[7] Her research interests lie in the applied science domain, which she believes is well-suited to capturing and holding students' attention because they are working to solve real-world problems.[10] She has spoken about her intersectional research approach to equipping students with the technical knowledge they need to work on these real-world challenges with the United States Department of Defense Science, Technology, and Innovation Exchange.[10][11]

Public engagement


Burks is a popular science communicator, using pop culture as an anchor to explore chemistry. She appeared on the Science Channel's Outrageous Acts of Science and Reactions, the video series for the American Chemical Society.[12][13] She has appeared on Mother Jones' Inquiring Minds podcast to share how chemistry can save you from a zombie apocalypse and on The Story Collider podcast with a story from her time working in a crime lab.[14][15] In early 2020, she appeared on the NPR Short Wave podcast on the episode "A Short Wave Guide to Good - and Bad - TV Forensics".[16] Burks has also contributed to scientific interest pieces for St. Andrew University on using chemistry in every day life.[17] Her writing has been featured in Slate, The Washington Post, UNDARK, and Chemistry World.[18][19][20][21]

Burks is also an advocate for women and underrepresented groups in science, speaking from her experiences as a black woman in STEM.[22][23] In 2018, Burks was a co-principal investigator for a $1.5 million NSF STEM grant to fund the establishment of the St. Andrew's Institute for Interdisciplinary Science (I4), which would promote internships and research opportunities for underrepresented groups in STEM.[24] She founded the DIYSciZone at GeekGirlCon, bringing scientists and science educators together to give convention attendees hands-on experiences with science experiments.[25] The citation for her American Chemical Society Grady-Stack award read, “Raychelle is a public-scientist extraordinaire... She inspires a love of chemistry by bringing chemistry directly to where her audience is. This direct engagement — her commitment to finding chemistry that can entertain and enlighten people who wouldn’t normally think of science — is nothing short of phenomenal".[26] Burks is active on social media to promote her field and fellow scientists.[27] [28]

In 2020, Burks appeared in the Tribeca Film Festival in the film "Picture a Scientist."[29][30][31]

Awards and honors


Her awards and honors include;

  • 2019 AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador[32]
  • 2019 Young Observer Award at the 50th IUPAC General Assembly and 47th World Chemistry Congress in Paris, France[33]
  • 2020 American Chemical Society Grady-Stack award for her public engagement excellence[26]
  • BBC Science Focus named her one of six women changing chemistry in February 2021[2]
  • 2023 Research Corporation for Science Advancement’s Robert Holland Jr. Award for Research Excellence and Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion[34]


  1. ^ "Raychelle Burks, Ph.D., wins ACS' Grady-Stack award for science communication". 2019-10-01.
  2. ^ a b Macpherson, Frankie (February 11, 2021). "6 women who are changing chemistry as we know it". BBC Science Focus Magazine. Retrieved 2021-02-23.
  3. ^ "Raychelle Burks". St. Edward's University. Archived from the original on 2020-09-29. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  4. ^ "Associate Professor". American University. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  5. ^ Burks, Raychelle M.; Hage, David S. (2009-07-31). "Current trends in the detection of peroxide-based explosives". Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 395 (2): 301–313. doi:10.1007/s00216-009-2968-5. ISSN 1618-2642. PMID 19644679. S2CID 24357939.
  6. ^ Okuom, Macduff O.; Burks, Raychelle; Naylor, Crysta; Holmes, Andrea E. (2015). "Applied Circular Dichroism: A Facile Spectroscopic Tool for Configurational Assignment and Determination of Enantiopurity". Journal of Analytical Methods in Chemistry. 2015: 865605. doi:10.1155/2015/865605. ISSN 2090-8865. PMC 4326340. PMID 25705549.
  7. ^ a b Kangas, Michael J.; Burks, Raychelle M.; Atwater, Jordyn; Lukowicz, Rachel M.; Williams, Pat; Holmes, Andrea E. (2017-03-04). "Colorimetric Sensor Arrays for the Detection and Identification of Chemical Weapons and Explosives". Critical Reviews in Analytical Chemistry. 47 (2): 138–153. doi:10.1080/10408347.2016.1233805. PMC 5351797. PMID 27636675.
  8. ^ Burks, Raychelle M.; Pacquette, Shari E.; Guericke, Mike A.; Wilson, Mark V.; Symonsbergen, David J.; Lucas, Kerry A.; Holmes, Andrea E. (May 2010). "DETECHIP®: A Sensor for Drugs of Abuse". Journal of Forensic Sciences. 55 (3): 723–727. doi:10.1111/j.1556-4029.2010.01323.x. ISSN 0022-1198. PMID 20202067. S2CID 23815162.
  9. ^ Azaldegui, Christopher; Aguilar, Guadalupe; Enriquez, Sarahi; Madonna, Chris; Parish Fisher, Casie; Burks, Raychelle (2021-02-05). "Benzoic acid derivatives as luminescent sublimation dyes in cyanoacrylate fuming of latent fingerprints". Journal of Forensic Sciences. 66 (3): 1085–1093. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.14678. hdl:2027.42/167506. ISSN 0022-1198.
  10. ^ a b DoD Science, Technology, & Innovation Exchange (2017-10-06), Dr. Raychelle Burks, "Catching Students at STEM Intersections", retrieved 2018-06-15{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ "Basic Research | DoD STEM". dodstem.us. Archived from the original on 2021-01-24. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  12. ^ "Raychelle Burks – Outrageous Acts of Science Cast | Science". www.sciencechannel.com. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  13. ^ "Reactions". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  14. ^ "How chemistry can save you from the zombie apocalypse". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  15. ^ "Death: Stories about untimely ends". The Story Collider. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  16. ^ "A Short Wave Guide To Good — And Bad — TV Forensics : Short Wave". NPR.org. Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  17. ^ "How to Grow Smarter | St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas". www.stedwards.edu. Retrieved 2023-03-02.
  18. ^ "Raychelle Burks". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  19. ^ Burks, Raychelle (2014-10-13). "Pumpkin spice latte, hint-of-lime chips and other chemically enhanced foods you should stop worrying about". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  20. ^ "Raychelle Burks | Author | Chemistry World". www.chemistryworld.com. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  21. ^ "Flourish or Perish: A Grad-School Novel Hits Almost Too Close to Home". Undark. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  22. ^ Moosa, Tauriq (2014-07-17). "Girls Love Science. We Tell Them Not To". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  23. ^ Mandelbaum, Ryan F. "Scientists React to New Ruling Requiring NSF-Funded Institutions to Report Sexual Harassment". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  24. ^ "St. Edward's University Receives $1.5 Million STEM Grant from the National Science Foundation | St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas". www.stedwards.edu. Retrieved 2023-03-02.
  25. ^ "DIY Science '15: Return of the Zone! | GeekGirlCon". geekgirlcon.com. 20 July 2015. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  26. ^ a b "Raychelle Burks Wins ACS' Grady-Stack Award for Science Communication | St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas". www.stedwards.edu. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  27. ^ "@CurlyHairMafia". Twitter. Retrieved 2023-03-02.
  28. ^ "@DrRubidium". Twitter. Retrieved 2023-03-02.
  29. ^ "Picture a Scientist". Picture a Scientist. Retrieved 2020-06-26.
  30. ^ "Picture a Scientist - Researchers expose longstanding discrimination against women in science. (with transcript)". PBS. 2021-04-14. Archived from the original on 2021-04-16.
  31. ^ Witze, Alexandra (2020-06-24). "Three extraordinary women run the gauntlet of science — a documentary". Nature. 583 (7814): 25–26. Bibcode:2020Natur.583...25W. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-01912-6.
  32. ^ "St. Edward's Raychelle Burks Selected as AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador | St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas". www.stedwards.edu. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  33. ^ "Faculty and Staff Make the News | St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas". www.stedwards.edu. Retrieved 2023-03-02.
  34. ^ "Raychelle Burks Receives Inaugural Cottrell Scholar Award". American University. Retrieved 2023-04-11.