Howard Scientist Reaches Milestone

Lue-Yung Chow Chiu, MA (chemistry) ’54, has for more than 30 years taught chemistry to graduates and undergraduates at Howard University, one of the most prominent historically black colleges in the United States. She first came to Howard in 1968, when what impressed her most was the large percentage of women faculty who were not only professors but “trustees, vice presidents—that was not the case at the other universities I went through, except Bryn Mawr, of course.” Chiu, then a mother of two young children, was also pleased to find that Howard accommodated working mothers at a time when many institutions did not. “Black families are women-oriented, I find,” explains Chiu. “The mother’s influence is very strong.”

Chiu grew up in China during World War II and did her undergraduate work in Taiwan in the late ’40s and ’50s. “We didn’t have the luxury of text books,” she says of her undergraduate days at Taiwan National University. “The teacher would hand-write notes for us. Then somehow we would manage to get print supplements. And the university, for that time, was considered pretty well equipped.” Her year at Bryn Mawr studying for her master’s in chemistry was her first year in the United States. “The small, seminar-style classes at Bryn Mawr were a totally new experience for me, because in Taiwan we had very large classes.” She recalls a physics class at Bryn Mawr in which she was the only student. “I benefited a great deal by being able to communicate more effectively with the professor and select topics of interest to me. It was a great year I can never forget.”

Chiu finds that college students today are more practical than students of the ’60s, ’70s and even ’80s. “More and more, it seems that when students come in, they immediately explore what they can do after they graduate, what kinds of jobs they can have. They are more interested in the job market than in pursuing knowledge for the sake of learning.” Many students are choosing biology over chemistry as a professional pursuit because of the biotechnology market. Chiu wonders if, as a consequence, the whole field of chemistry is a “little bit threatened. But on the other hand,” she says, “Howard chemistry is still growing. We have just hired three junior faculty, so it looks as if we still have a way to go.”

—Alicia Bessette

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