CUI’s science department received a $10,000 grant from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) to create a Women of Faith in Science program, which will combine lab research and reflection on what it means to be a Christian woman in a scientific field. The grant proposal was written by Dr. John Kenney, professor of chemistry and chemical physics.
LWML representative Marjorie Baumgartner, a longtime friend and supporter of CUI with her late husband, attended the ceremonial presentation of the check.
Dr. Kenney not only helps us with science but tells us that we really need to lift things up to God, that our lives are centered around Christ.
“Dr. Kenney’s proposal was a very valid one and the women appreciated his efforts to mentor young women not only in science but in their Christian faith,” Baumgartner says.
Starting in summer 2019, five students will conduct scientific research in a lab, and create a group book and video with devotions and thoughts about their journeys as Christian female scientists. The book and video will leave a legacy of community and mentorship to women coming into the sciences behind them. And each year’s cohort will mentor the following group of female students.
In the lab, each student has her own area of research, most involving spectroscopic methods of investigation, Kenney’s specialty. Two students are studying astronomical areas. One is studying organic molecules related to photosynthesis.
Madison Kreinheder ’19, a chemistry major, is studying the effects of ocean acidification on calcium carbonate structures like clams and oysters, using spectroscopy. When she was younger, she “assumed science was something for boys. I hadn’t considered that I was capable of doing science.”
I felt called to do this project because I’m a huge advocate for protecting the environment. It makes me very joyful knowing that what I’m doing has the potential to make a difference.
A teacher encouraged her pursuit, and in looking for a university where she would be empowered to continue in science, she found CUI and Dr. Kenney “so uplifting and encouraging that it became clear that this was a place where students were encouraged to persevere and learn.” Her research may provide significant understanding in its field.
“A deeper, spectral understanding of calcium carbonate will help people who are studying what acidification is doing on a molecular level to organisms,” she says. “My research has the potential to impact lots of other researchers who are working on the biological end. I felt called to do this project because I’m a huge advocate for protecting the environment. It makes me very joyful knowing that what I’m doing has the potential to make a difference.”
In this program, Kreinheder feels encouraged to think spiritually about science as well.“ The more I learn about science, to me it’s more proof that there must be a God,” she says. “No matter how much I learn, I will only know this tiny fraction of how the world works. I find great comfort in that, knowing that God already knows, and he’s going to take care of you and these questions. We should continually search for answers, but there’s comfort knowing that it’s okay and he already knows.”
Kenney’s mentorship in science and faith has “played a huge part in my life,” she says. “Dr. Kenney not only helps us with science but tells us that we really need to lift things up to God, that our lives are centered around Christ. I am a stronger Christian now, motivated by a love for science and a love for Christ, to advance the field of science and advance God’s will on earth.”