A renowned researcher and educator at Missouri University of Science and Technology has been selected to join an exclusive group of chemists. But he says the honor has more to do with the quality of research, education and community outreach at Missouri S&T than with his individual accomplishments.
Dr. Yinfa Ma, associate dean for research and external relations in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Business, was recently selected to be an American Chemical Society Fellow. He was one of only 65 scientists named to the 2017 class, and will be recognized at a ceremony and reception on Aug. 21, during the society’s 254th National Meeting & Exposition in Washington, D.C.
“When I received the letter, I was excited, but not just for me, but mostly for the university,” says Ma, who is also a Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor of Chemistry at Missouri S&T.
“To increase the reputation of the university, honors like this are so crucial,” Ma says. “We need to let the world know that Missouri S&T has really good chemists and they contribute to the society significantly. I think we have more colleagues at Missouri S&T deserving of this honor.”
The American Chemical Society (ACS) is the world’s largest scientific society with 157,000 members internationally. The nonprofit organization was chartered by the U.S. Congress. The ACS Fellows Program was created by the ACS Board of Directors in December 2008 to recognize members for outstanding achievements in and contributions to science, the profession and society.
Including Ma and this year’s 64 other recipients, there are about 1060 named fellows in the world, or less than 0.7 percent of the society’s total members. Ma is the first faculty member at Missouri S&T to be named an ACS Fellow.
Ma believes he received the honor not only because of his scientific work, which includes the invention of the P-scan, an early cancer-screening device, but also because of his work in the Rolla and Kirksville communities and with undergraduate students at Missouri S&T and Truman State University.
Ma estimates that over 100 undergraduate students and 15 high school students have participated in his research over his 30-year academic career.
“I love to educate future chemists, bringing students into chemistry through research,” he says.
Ma has also made countless visits to local schools and youth organizations.
“I’ve done a lot of demos for elementary, middle and high school students to show what the sciences can do to improve society and motivate students to love science at a young age,” he says. “I talk about my research and try to gain research interest among students.”
He mentions a particular local student that came to Missouri S&T because of one of his presentations.
“I had one student who came here, and she said, ‘I only came here because of you, Dr. Ma,’” he says. “That really shows the impact of what we have done in the local community. Research is really important. But serving our community and society is equally important.”
Ma was nominated for the award by Dr. Philip Whitefield, professor and chair of the chemistry department, with support letters from Dr. Jay Switzer, the Donald L. Castleman/FCR Endowed Professor of Discovery in Chemistry, and former graduate student Dr. Casey Burton, who completed his Ph.D. in chemistry from Missouri S&T in May 2017.
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