Dil Ramanathan, Ph.D., assistant professor in the New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics (NJCSTM) at Kean University, was named a 2017 Inspiring Leader in STEM. The national award, presented by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education, honors professionals from underrepresented groups who have made a difference in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“As the most senior female faculty member in the STEM program at Kean, Dr. Ramanathan is continuously paving a path for future generations of scientists, especially underrepresented female students,” said Keith Bostian, Ph.D., dean of NJCSTM. “Her passion for chemistry and education are the cornerstones of her success and her innate desire to help those who might otherwise be overlooked give her all the motivation she needs to keep overcoming obstacles while breaking barriers in the process. She is an extraordinary role model for young women pursuing a career in STEM.”
An immigrant from Sri Lanka, Ramanathan has faced many obstacles in her life. At a young age, she had high aspirations to contribute to educating young minds in the areas of science and technology. However, the lack of opportunities for women in Sri Lanka made it very difficult for her to pursue her dream. When she arrived in the United States in 1983, she dealt with financial hardships, the pressures of balancing family and work, and the widely accepted belief in her culture that a woman’s place is at home.
“I overcome life’s obstacles through hard work, perseverance, a strong belief in the US educational system and the support of my family,” said Ramanathan, who teaches analytical chemistry and chromatographic/mass spectrometric methods at Kean. “I am fortunate to be part of a team of faculty members at NJCSTM who have been working to transform the way science and mathematics are taught by enabling students to join faculty-directed research initiatives and learn through laboratory research experiences as early as their freshman year. It is incredibly rewarding to conduct research alongside aspiring scientists as they turn their curiosities into careers.”
Inspiring Leader in STEM award recipients were nominated by a colleague and selected based on their efforts to inspire and encourage a new generation of young people to consider careers in STEM through mentoring, teaching, research and successful programs and initiatives.
“We know many of those working in STEM fields, especially those from underrepresented groups, are not always recognized for their success, dedication, and mentorship to others,” said Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We want to honor the many professionals who are inspirations to their colleagues, their community, and to young people who may be interested in a future career in STEM.”
Through NJCSTM’s Research First Initiative and Group Summer Scholars Research Program, Ramanathan leads immersive team-focused research initiatives that enable undergraduate and high school students to develop a true appreciation of the scientific research process while contributing firsthand to the acquisition of new scientific knowledge. As a faculty member, she has also mentored more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students in the past decade at Kean, and in 2012, received the University’s Faculty Research Mentor of the Year Award.
Ramanathan has also received the Foundation Faculty Research Award, Untenured Faculty Research Initiative Award, Students Partnering with Faculty Award, Presidential Grant, and the New Research Initiatives Grant. In 2014, the New Jersey General Assembly recognized Ramanathan for her community leadership, exemplary volunteerism and professional achievements in biotechnology.