Sep. 16, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas– St. Edward’s University is proud to announce that Raychelle Burks, assistant professor of Chemistry, has been selected as one of the 125 AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) IF/THEN® Ambassadors.

IF/THEN, a national initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies, seeks to further women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by empowering current innovators and inspiring the next generation of pioneers.

“We firmly believe that IF we support a woman in STEM, THEN she can change the world,” said Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “The goal of IF/THEN is to shift the way our country—and the world—think about women in STEM and this requires changing the narratives about women STEM professionals and improving their visibility.”

To achieve this goal, AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors will connect with students in person and through various media platforms, including popular YouTube channels and network television shows. The Ambassadors are contemporary role models who represent a diversity of STEM-related professions in the United States, from entertainment, fashion, sports, business and academia.

“AAAS is deeply committed to advancing education and opportunities for girls and women in STEM,” said Margaret Hamburg, chair of the AAAS Board of Directors. “This partnership enables us to reach more deeply into STEM education and help advance STEM careers for women and girls. It will help us to elevate the voices of women working in STEM fields and to inspire the next generation of girls and women in science.”

Burks was inspired to pursue a career in science by pop culture, specifically Star Trek’s Uhura and the sleuths of Agatha Christie. Her love of cracking mysteries lead her to a career in forensic science and analytical chemistry. After a few years working in a crime lab, Burks returned to teaching and forensic science research. An analytical chemist, she enjoys the challenge of developing detection methods for a wide-variety of analytes including regulated drugs and explosives. Her current research efforts are focused on the design, fabrication, and analysis of sensing systems that are field portable.

Pop culture continues to inspire Burks. In addition to co-founding SciPop Talks!, a popular talk series blending science and pop culture, Burks writes and speaks regularly on the science of popular fandoms such as the Marvel and DC universes, “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “Game of Thrones,” and “The Walking Dead.” She has appeared in Science Channel's “Outrageous Acts of Science,” American Chemical Society’s “ACS Reactions” videos, been a guest on popular podcasts, and is a regular speaker at genre conventions such as DragonCon and GeekGirlCon. She writes a science and true crime column for Chemistry World, the magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

In October, AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors will participate in the IF/THEN Summit in Dallas to take their outreach to the next level by learning from each other and receiving resources and coaching in science communication and effective STEM storytelling. The IF/THEN Collection, a digital asset library of photos and custom content, will be created as a tool to increase the number of accurate and powerful images of real women and girls in STEM. The robust collection can be accessed by media, educators and non-profit organizations as they develop and share inspiring content and curriculum.

AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors were selected through a rigorous selection process. Candidates were evaluated for overall excellence with a focus on the following:

  • contributions to their STEM-related field, commensurate with their career stage;
  • demonstrated experience and abilities in STEM communication and public engagement via media, classroom, and public programs; and
  • commitment to inspiring middle-school girls to be the next generation of STEM pioneers.

The IF/THEN Girls Advisory Council, comprised of more than 150 10-18 year-old girls from around the country, also participated in the Ambassador selection process.

For a complete list of Ambassadors, go to