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Meet Physics Assistant Professor Dr. Hairong Ma

January 24, 2013 — Dr. Hairong Ma joined Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences after completing her postdoc as a research associate at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA), University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research interests include protein mechanics, folding, and aggregation in living cells.

Dr. Hairong Ma

Dr. Hairong Ma

Dr. Hairong Ma

Assistant Professor, Department of Physics

Hometown: I grew up in a small town called Shouguang in Shandong Province in China
Degree: Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (biophysics and computational biology)
Research Interests: My research interests lie in the field of protein mechanics, folding, and aggregation in live cells



Q: What did you do before coming to Drexel?
A: Before I came to Drexel I was a postdoc research associate at JILA, University of Colorado at Boulder.

Q: What is your favorite book?
A: My favorite book is The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Q: What is your favorite food/restaurant?
A: I love many different kinds of foods. It’s hard to name one specific type. Generally, I love something spicy, and I love fresh fruit too!

Q: One thing you couldn't live without:
A: Books. I love reading in all areas of human literature, such as culture, nature, adventure, and history, etc. I certainly cannot live without books.

Q: Who is your idol/Who inspires you?
A: Richard Feynman—he is a brilliant physicist and one of the most influential scientists in the 20th century. In my opinion, he truly embodied the spirit of science: curiosity, free mind, and persistence.

Q: What was the most memorable class you ever took as an undergrad?
A: There were a lot of courses I enjoyed as an undergrad. The most memorable class I took is Mathematical Methods in Physics. This course draws a beautiful unified picture of two worlds: the abstract world of mathematical methods and the real world of physical laws where we live.

Q: Which current issue do you think students should know more about?
A: One of the most critical issues of the 21st century is energy and sustainability. Transformation of the energy supply from fossil fuel to sustainable energy becomes a challenging task facing the whole world. I think everyone of our community, in particular the students, should be aware of this issue, and start to think what we can do to solve this puzzle.

Q: What’s one thing every student who plans on taking one of your classes should know about you?
A: I think the ability of critical thinking and problem solving is more important than remembering information from the textbook. I would like the student who plans on taking my classes to know that I expect him or her to be an active learner, and I am there to help.

Q: What made you want to become a professor?
A: The academia career is particularly appealing to me, as it combines the opportunities of mentoring students and conducting research. I enjoy teaching and training new minds and exploring the exciting world of science at the same time.

Q: What course would you be most excited to teach at Drexel and why?
   A: I am very excited to teach the Electromagnetic Theory course this quarter. It was one of my favorite courses during my undergraduate and graduate study. In this course, I hope the students will explore and feel the beauty of physics, which can be best illustrated in the simple and elegant presentation of the Maxwell Equations.

Q: What do you hope to add to the CoAS community?
A: I hope I will contribute to the diversity development of the CoAS community in the areas of research, teaching, and culture. My study lies in the multidisciplinary field of biophysics. My research and teaching will be focused on developing and building the bridge between the two fields of physics and biology. In addition, as a female scientist with an international background, I also want to encourage female students to pursue a science career, and international collaborations in science, teaching, and student training.


See Dr. Hairong Ma in action: CoAS Dean’s Seminar: “Physics of Protein Folding in Living Cells” Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 3:30-5:00PM, Disque 109.

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