Longtime University Of Houston Professor Inspires Young Scientists

The University of Houston's longest-serving professor — of 56 years — is being recognized for her work in encouraging women to pursue chemical science careers. Chemistry professor Mamie Moy not only shares her knowledge with university students, but she's also working to get middle school kids interested in science, especially those in underserved communities.

Maime Moy received her master’s degree in chemistry from UH in 1952, after earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas. After a brief stint in the private sector, Moy returned to the university. She’s been on the faculty ever since.

Moy says she developed an interest in education while working as a student teaching assistant but her love of science came earlier. She was inspired by a teacher at her Catholic girls’ school in San Antonio.

“She was not really a scientist, but then when we asked questions she said, ‘Well, let’s find out. Let’s do it.’ At the end of whatever we were doing she said, ‘Oh that’s great, I also learned.”

Moy began her teaching career instructing World War II veterans who were going to school on the GI Bill. As the years went on and more women started going to college, Moy says she realized the need for more female professors, especially in the sciences.

Today, Moy shares her passion for chemistry not only with her university students, but she also leads scientific workshops for middle school girls. In those workshops girls learn what’s behind the ordinary things in the world around them

“We did a workshop and it was a big success. We made lipstick. And we said, ‘This is what it’s all about.’ And they said, ‘Well, why do you have to pay so much?’ ‘It’s because you have all these nice things that you put it in, the case that you put it in and all.’ They said, ‘Oh, okay.’ We talk about cosmetics. The girls are interested in that.”

Moy also shares her knowledge with kids in underserved communities. She says many students from low-income families don’t get to do a lot of activities. Taking part in a hands-on chemistry workshop is a new experience.

“They get to do it. They get to see what happens. They get to feel it and sometimes their hands get dirty, but that’s okay. And they also know that if they don’t follow directions things could happen that shouldn’t happen.”

And Moy says the process of scientific discovery is also a powerful emotional experience for both the kids and the teachers.

Moy was recently honored by the American Chemical Society“The little kids came up and said, ‘Are you coming back?’ And I said, ‘Well, no, you know, we’ve got to do this with other children now. We’ve got to spread it around and all.’ And they said, ‘Well, we want you to come back.’ And I said, ‘Well, we’ll see if we can come back or not.’ And three of them started crying. And I just can’t take it. I mean, I just couldn’t take it.”

Moy was recently honored by the American Chemical Society for her work in educating young women about chemical science careers. The award carries a 10-thousand grant.

Moy hopes to use the money for a scientific mini-conference that would bring together women and girls from all academic levels, from post-graduate to kindergarten.


Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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