MIT ChemREFS (Resources for Easing Friction and Stress) is a group of 8—12 graduate students who are trained and certified in conflict resolution and mediation. Our team is one of 11 departmental REFS programs (and the first established!) at MIT. Our mission is to improve the graduate student experience in MIT Chemistry by serving as a confidential resource for chemistry graduate students, faculty, and staff. Basically, we're here to listen and talk through possible solutions if you have a problem—big or small, in lab or at home. We are available to meet students one-on-one, and we also host a weekly "office hour" through our ChemConvos program. Learn more about meeting with a ChemREFS member here!
We also act as advocates for chemistry graduate students in a number of ways. We raise department-wide issues and concerns during our annual meetings with the department head and faculty REFS—if you have suggestions for change, please talk to us! Through these meetings, we have encouraged the department to establish policies for better student/advisor communications as well as clearer standards for oral exams. Members of ChemREFS have also served on the departmental Quality of Life Committee, which surveys and reports student wellness, and we have also worked with other chemistry student groups on establishing a department code of conduct.
Throughout the year, ChemREFS hosts many events for the chemistry community. We contact students during significant milestones in the program: orientation, research group selection, oral exams, and proposals. In the past, we have cohosted group selection and oral prep events with the Chemistry Graduate Student Council (CGSC), and we're currently collaborating with Women in Chemistry (WIC) on a series of events focusing on diversity and inclusion in the department. ChemREFS also hosts a number of social, de-stressing events throughout the year as well as workshops on conflict resolution.