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InterViews

Marye Anne Fox

chemistry
(recorded in 2004)

 Physical organic chemist Marye Anne Fox's research bridges the gap between basic and applied science. Examining the relationship between structure and chemical reactivity, her work has focused on photo- and electrochemistry. Fox earned a B.S. from Notre Dame College in 1969, an M.S. from Cleveland State University in 1970, and a Ph.D. from Dartmouth College in 1974, all in chemistry. After completing a postdoctoral year at the University of Maryland, Fox spent 22 years at the University of Texas, eventually serving as vice president for research and Waggoner Regents Chair in chemistry. Fox, the chancellor of North Carolina State University from 1998 to 2003, now holds the same post at the University of California, San Diego.

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Track 1: Post-Sputnik
Fox feels she grew up at the right time to be a scientist after the launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik satellite, in the midst of the space race, when bright American children were steered toward science. She discusses chemistry's role as the "central science," and the opportunities that affords for multidisciplinary work. Fox originally planned to teach high-school science, but found herself living in an area with few opportunities to do so, and entered a Ph.D. program. She briefly outlines her subsequent work in physical organic chemistry, the "simple but rewarding" ideas that allowed her to work on both basic and applied research, a flexibility she enjoyed greatly. (10 minutes)

Track 2: At Home in the World
In recent years, Fox has moved from bench researcher to university administrator. She compares both facets of her career, noting that each has offered her the opportunity to influence the lives and directions of students, albeit on different scales. Fox also discusses her extensive career-related travel - she has lectured on every continent, even giving a talk at the South Pole. She emphasizes the importance of international collaboration in science, especially as a diplomatic tool. (11 minutes)

Track 3: The Two Cultures
Fox discusses her gradual switch in emphasis, from research to administration. Some of her earliest administrative work was serving on committees of the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council. Fox talks about the importance of involving scientists in educational and governmental policy, to ensure that the scientific perspective is taken into account. (9 minutes)

Track 4: The Research Triangle
At the time of this interview, Fox was the chancellor of North Carolina State University. She discusses her vision for the university. NCSU is part of North Carolina's "Research Triangle," along with Duke and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Fox talks about recent interdisciplinary collaborations between the three institutions. (9 minutes)

Track 5: Future Tense
Fox discusses how her service on corporate and foundation boards helps her scout opportunities for her university and individual faculty members. As chancellor, she feels her job is to be a visionary and to allow faculty room to innovate. She talks about the educational challenges facing universities and the nation as a whole, including the need to encourage more math, science and engineering majors and to bolster science education at all levels. (9 minutes)

 

Last Updated: 10-29-2004

The audio files linked above are part of the National Academy of Sciences InterViews series. Opinions and statements included in these audio files are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academy of Sciences.

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