January 26, 2023

By Alaina Uricheck ’23

Geneive Henry, Charles B. Degenstein professor of chemistry Geneive Henry, Charles B. Degenstein professor of chemistry

This is the third story in our series on Women in STEM.

When Geneive Henry joined the faculty at Susquehanna University in 2003, she became one of the first professors of color to be hired in the university’s natural sciences departments — a dynamic that was foreign to her while growing up in Jamaica, where she attended an all-female high school taught mainly by women.

“Unlike the United States, where you rarely find women in leadership positions in some STEM disciplines, that’s not the case in Jamaica,” Henry explained. She estimated half of her science professors were women.

She credits her doctoral advisor as having played the most influential role in her development as a college professor. “She was both an excellent role model and mentor,” Henry said. “Even though resources were scarce in Jamaica, she went out of her way to ensure that her students had the tools they needed to succeed.”

Inspired by her doctoral advisor’s approach to mentoring and interest in each student’s personal development, Henry was recognized with the Outstanding Mentorship Award from the Chemistry Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research. The award honors excellence in mentoring of undergraduate researchers and specifically recognized Henry’s efforts to foster cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional research collaborations. These collaborations have created research opportunities for over 50 undergraduate students across four institutions.

Henry’s research, which focuses on synthesizing natural product derivatives and evaluating their anti-cancer, antioxidant and antibacterial properties, is critical to the mentorship she provides to her own students. She has individually mentored 68 research students in the past 20 years from a variety of STEM majors — 42 of whom were women.

“While there are many positive outcomes for students engaging in research, teaching my students to do their research properly and ethically is one of the most important things I can teach them,” Henry said. “I try to instill confidence in my students, either in the classroom or research setting, and inspire them to want to do and be their best.”

Now Susquehanna’s Charles B. Degenstein professor of chemistry, Henry doesn’t discuss the challenges associated with being a woman in STEM directly with her students; instead, she aims to create opportunities for her female students to become confident and successful female scientists. “I think I model for them what it’s like and how to be successful in a discipline that is traditionally dominated by males,” Henry said. “In me, they see someone who works hard and maintains high ethical standards.”