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Women's History Month: Saluting UW-Stevens Point faculty and staff

Shannon Riha - School of Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry

When she was a young, Shannon Riha spent hours making spiral wrap for electrical and hydraulic lines for big machinery and fixing old cars in the garage and at her dad's forestry machine shop. It sparked her interest in a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

During her first chemistry course at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, she learned about all the possibilities that came with a degree in chemistry. A summer research experience using different types of chemical instrumentation hooked her, she said.

"Seeing how chemical instruments could be used to visualize really tiny materials -- thousands of times smaller than the human hair! -- and solve scientific questions had me hooked on analytical and materials chemistry."

As assistant professor of chemistry at UW-Stevens Point, Riha shares that enthusiasm with her students. "I try to instill my passion for chemical instrumentation in my courses and through my undergraduate research program by training my students on how to use instruments and remedy common issues."

She enjoys interacting with students and seeing them grow academically as they develop their laboratory skills. By running their own samples, students build confidence in and ownership of the results, she said. "It gives students the hands-on experience they can take with them into their future careers."

Riha teaches general chemistry and analytical chemistry courses and also leads a research program that encompasses projects and collaborations with faculty in physics, biology and natural resources. "By having a multidisciplinary research program, I hope my students see the potential in forming collaborations within and beyond their future areas of expertise." 

Undergraduate research is a hallmark at UW-Stevens Point. The first time Riha meets with students as their adviser, she talks about how to get involved in research both on and off campus.

A research night each fall helps students learn about different research opportunities within the Chemistry Department. In spring, a career night highlights what alumni are doing with their degree.

Riha also represents UW-Stevens Point on the advisory board for the UW System Women and Science Program, which aims to attract and retain women and diverse students to STEM fields.

She hopes to advance the profession by correcting negative perceptions about girls "working in the garage," and encouraging them to embrace their interest in STEM.

"By promoting and encouraging participation in STEM opportunities from early on, we hope all students, regardless of gender or race, will build their confidence and follow their passion to a STEM career."

Read more about the women of UW-Stevens Point:

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