Cynthia Chapple

Cynthia Chapple

Research and Development Chemist


Chicago, IL

Jefferson High School (Lafayette, IN)

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis – BS, Forensic and Investigative Science; BA, Chemistry

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville- MS, Chemistry

RBC Young Professionals

Urban League Young Professionals

Focus STL Coro Women in STEM Leadership

American Chemical Society

STEMSTL Ecosystem working group member

In short, what do you do?

I am a Research and Development Chemist at ELANTAS PDG. I am a lead developer of innovation in the area of protective coating technology for the electrical and electronic markets. I am also the Founder and Managing Director for Black Girls Do STEM, a program with the mission to trigger an increased curiosity through deliberate education, access and opportunity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in the minds of every black girl. This is achieved through rigorous hands-on STEM workshops and empowering mentorship that exposes black girls to black women in STEM.

While it is improving, there is still a lack of African-American women in science and chemistry. What would you say to an African-American high school student who is interested in a career in science but is unsure of the opportunities?

I would tell them to first research science careers and college programs. After doing a Google search to have a framework of what to even ask for,  then they should ask for the experiences they want!  Ask your school to host events. Ask your parents if you can attend things outside of school. Hold your school counselor accountable to have information on chemistry careers and college programs. Visit colleges in the areas to talk with college science departments and their students. Finally, they can email me to get my insight.

As a follow-up, it is not always cool to be the smart kid. How do you inspire more young people to pursue their interest in STEM learning?

Classrooms all across the nation have the issue of celebrating some students while totally overlooking others. Therefore, it is hard to be the celebrated student, i.e the smart student. What I tell students is to get busy solving the problems of tomorrow, and you will undoubtedly need STEM knowledge and skills to do so. First, students must decide what they are interested in. STEM education can lend itself to so many areas of our lives, so once students understand that they pursue it on their own. I simply get students to find their passion, imagine the world they want to live in, and help them develop tools to create the world around them, as they would have it be.

When did your interest in chemistry take root? Did you have any mentors or participate in any programs that fostered your interest?

As a high school student, I had a mentor who was an Aeronautical Engineer who worked for NASA. She was young, gifted and black and I was so impressed with her I knew I would be a scientist. I was always interested in biology but also loved math. So I decided on chemistry because it was less reading, more math and still very useful in creating and improving the world.

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