Mayrand has devoted career to improving K-12 science education

April 16, 2003

WORCESTER, Mass. — For her contributions to getting and keeping young women interested in science, the Young Women’s Christian Association of Central Massachusetts (YWCA) will present Sandra Mayrand, MBA, with its Katharine F. Erskine Award for Medicine and Science, at its “Tribute to Women” awards ceremony on May 6. An accomplished scientist who has made it her life’s mission to encourage children to embrace the joy of science and to broaden their educational opportunities, Ms. Mayrand has been a key architect of the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s expanding K-12 science education outreach initiatives.

Created by the YWCA in 1993 in the memory of Katharine Forbes Erskine, its former president and lifelong advocate for women’s rights, the Erskine Awards recognize local women in four categories of accomplishment, including business and law; education; community/social services and government; as well as medicine and science. “Ms. Mayrand is an exceptional role model for girls and women who aspire to a career in science,” wrote Thoru Pederson, PhD, the Vitold Arnett Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who supported Mayrand’s nomination for the award.

Mayrand’s involvement in K-12 science education began as a mother’s quest in 1989, while she was a senior research assistant at the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research. She began volunteering her time and resources at nearby Shrewsbury High School, where her son was a struggling chemistry student. Since then, she has served in multiple roles that now include director of the UMMS Office of Science Education (OSE); director for the UMMS Regional Science Resource Center; and director of the Massachusetts PALMS Alliance, a continuation of the statewide Partnerships Advancing the Learning of Mathematics and Science (PALMS) project. Under Mayrand’s direction, the Office of Science Education’s multiple programs, funded by national, state and local grants and foundations, as well as by school districts statewide, serve thousands of teachers and students at hundreds of schools across the Commonwealth.

Of special note to the Erskine Awards Committee are Mayrand’s involvement in the Women in Science Program and Project SCOPE (Science Can Open Pathways for Exploration). Initiatives between UMMS, the EcoTarium and Girls, Inc., these programs focus specifically on girls. “We honor people who have made contributions not only in their fields of expertise and their communities, but who have supported other women,” explained Linda Cavaioli, executive director of the YWCA.

A resident of Shrewsbury, Mayrand received her bachelor’s degree from the University of New Hampshire in 1968. She served as a research assistant at UNH and Indiana University before joining what was then the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in 1976. In 1991, Mayrand received her MBA from Clark University and in 1997, she assumed the dual full-time roles of Regional Science Resource Center director and director of the Office of Science Education at UMMS. 

“This award is especially meaningful to me as it recognizes work that is very close to my heart,” said Mayrand. “Many of our programs connect this community’s wealth of accomplished women scientists to local school children. It is rewarding to see girls and young women experience firsthand how intriguing and involving science can be.”

The Erskine Award closely follows Mayrand’s national recognition from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), who honored her with its fifth annual Bruce Alberts Award for Outstanding Contributions to Science Education last fall. ASCB cited Mayrand for her visionary leadership and her innovative and sustained efforts to improve the quality of science education throughout the Commonwealth.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of the fastest growing medical schools in the country, attracting more than $143 million in research funding annually.  A perennial top finisher in the annual US News & World Report ranking of primary care medical schools, UMMS comprises a medical school, graduate school of nursing, graduate school of biomedical sciences and an active research enterprise, and is a leader in health sciences education, research and public service.


Contact: Sandra Gray, 508-856-2000