Marcey Waters
Marcey Waters

Marcey Waters, Gordon and Bowman Gray Term Professor of Chemistry, has won the 2015 Mary Turner Lane award in honor of her outstanding contributions to the lives of women students, faculty, staff and administrators at Carolina.

The Association for Women Faculty and Professionals presented the award to Waters this spring.

Waters joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry in 1999 after completing a doctorate at the University of Chicago and a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral appointment at Columbia University.

Her field of expertise is bio-organic chemistry, chemical biology, molecular recognition and supramolecular chemistry. But in her 16 years at Carolina, Waters has achieved eminence not only as a world-class scientists, but also as a committed teacher, mentor and “university citizen,” the award citation said.

Waters, who holds a Gordon and Bowman Gray Term Professorship for excellence in teaching, received a 2014 Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In student citations for that award, Waters was described as “the epitome of what I value in a professor” and “the soul and spirit” of undergraduate teaching. One student said of her, “Dr. Waters is who I want to be when I grow up.”

Waters, whose favorite non-science course was “Gender and Politics” when she was in college, has said she hates the idea that organic chemistry is considered a “weeder class.”

“My goal is to get as many students excited about organic chemistry as possible, to show them that it is not as tough as it is made out to be, and even if they don’t love it, I want to make sure they understand why it is important for anyone interested in a health-related field.”

Inseparable from her roles as scientist and teacher has been a career-long commitment to increasing the numbers and improving the lives of women in science at all levels – prospective students, undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty colleagues.

In 2013, Waters co-organized the University’s first “Summit on Women in Science,” which attracted more than 150 women. She continues to work with the graduate student organization WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) and has helped a new undergraduate organization get established.

In his nominating letter for the Turner award, chemistry professor Michael Crimmins spoke of how Waters is open to discussing any issue related to being a woman in science, from crucial career choices to what to wear for a job interview.

“Marcey recognizes that these smaller considerations, as well as many larger ones, are just as crucial to address to enable women in science to thrive,” Crimmins said.

As the first female faculty member in chemistry to have children, Waters has shown that the roles of research scientist, teacher and mother are not incompatible, Crimmins added.

Before Waters’ arrival, Crimmins said, the fact that the department lacked a faculty member who was also a mother “unintentionally reinforced the impression that a faculty position in the sciences was incompatible with having a family.”

“Marcey’s first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by female graduate students, postdocs and faculty members who become mothers enables her not only to be a superior mentor, but also to take action on the departmental level as an advocate,” Crimmins said.

As a result of her advocacy, a pumping room for new mothers is now being established within the department.

The Mary Turner Lane award, established in 1986, is given annually by the Association for Women Faculty and Professionals and is named for one of the group’s founders. Lane, associate professor emerita of education, became the first director of Women’s Studies in 1976, and, although retired, remains active in women’s issues on campus.

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