The goal of ChemREFS is to provide the chemistry graduate student body with a resource to help diffuse, if not resolve, problems, conflicts, and concerns.
ChemREFS is a group of ten graduate students who span all four divisions of the Department of Chemistry. It is the oldest of sixteen departmental REFS (Resources for Easing Friction and Stress) programs at MIT. Certified mediators through Conflict Management @ MIT (CM @ MIT), ChemREFS serve all members of the department by providing private conversational sessions with individuals and hosting workshops and social events.
Members of the ChemREFS hold annual meetings with their Faculty Advisors (Professors Mei Hong and Tim Swager) to discuss issues within the Department and often work together with other student groups such as Chemistry Graduate Student Committee (CGSC), Women in Chemistry (WIC), and Chemistry Alliance for Diversity and Inclusion (CADI).
One of the major goals of the group is to provide students of the department a confidential space for discussing issues related to their research, interpersonal conflicts, and program requirements. In the past year, over 80 meetings were conducted concerning topics from peer conflicts and group selection to oral exams and work-life balance. Members of ChemREFS help connect students with resources within the department and around campus that may help with a variety of these personal and professional issues.
In addition to one-on-one meetings, ChemREFS have hosted various events in the past year. At the end of January 2019, the annual “Orals Preparation Workshop” was co-organized with Chemistry Graduate Student Committee (CGSC) for second- and third-year students taking oral exams. In March 2019, ChemREFS hosted a series of mental health programming dubbed “March Anti-Madness” and included sessions such as “Intro to Advocacy”, “Maintaining Positive Morale”, “Healthy Eating”, “Recognizing Signs of Distress”, and “Cultivating Support Networks”. The “Conversations and Cannolis” events from last year, organized in conjunction with Women in Chemistry (WIC), have continued with great success. In these bimonthly sessions, topics such as sleep and stress, burnout, imposter syndrome, and work-life balance are discussed with expert guest speakers. In August and September 2019, a series of orientation events were also hosted including the returning “Play-doh and Pie Hour” for first-year students. The 1st year orientation dinner and the “Final Call Before Fall” barbeque were co-hosted with CGSC, WIC, and CADI.
Throughout the year, ChemREFS have also continued to be engaged with the larger MIT REFS community through allREFS meetings, where different departmental REFS groups share what they have been doing to help promote a more constructive and supportive campus culture.