The 50th anniversary of women’s arrival at Union features a year-long celebration of women and their contributions to the College, their communities and the world.
Mary K. (Carroll) Mahony '86 (Mary K. Carroll, professionally) majored in chemistry at Union before earning a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Indiana University, Bloomington. Now Union’s Dwane W. Crichton Professor of Chemistry, Mary also co-directs the College’s interdisciplinary Aerogel Lab, which investigates catalytic aerogels for automotive pollution mitigation and the use of aerogels for sustainable building applications. Mary is active in the American Chemical Society (ACS) and since 1998 has served as councilor of the Eastern New York ACS section. At the national level, she serves on the ACS Committee on Science and on the ACS Leadership Advisory Board. In 2016, Mary was recognized as an ACS Fellow. She is also chair of the Faculty Executive Committee at Union and sits on the College’s Planning & Priorities Committee. Mary enjoys spending time in the Adirondacks with her husband, Michael Mahony ’85, and daughters Anna Mahony ’20 and Emma Mahony ’21. Reading fiction has always been one of her main hobbies. Learn more about her here.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
I have a fabulous job, which affords me the freedom to choose what I study and how I contribute professionally. That’s both rewarding and challenging. Teaching is something that can never be perfected, experiments performed lead to additional questions, and with experience comes greater expectations for service on and off campus. It can be difficult to achieve balance. It’s extremely rewarding to work with Union students in the classroom (including laboratory classes) and in the research lab. On any given day, I learn new things – from a colleague, a student, an experiment, and/or the scientific literature.
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
My family and my colleagues at Union. I come from a relatively large family that has a deep-seated commitment to education and social justice. And it’s simply a pleasure to work with (and be challenged by!) so many committed and talented staff and faculty members across campus.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
Go for it! Seek out and take advantage of opportunities to challenge yourself in classes, research experiences and internships, terms away from campus and extracurricular activities. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something – ask questions! Cultivate professional relationships with mentors who can help you navigate college and serve as advisors (formal or informal) as you consider post-graduation plans.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
Engaging in undergraduate research in the laboratories of professors Les Hull and Tom Werner. I enjoyed my chemistry classes but had every intention of pursuing a career in environmental law. The experiences I had in the research lab convinced me to go to graduate school in analytical chemistry, instead. I found both the hands-on (practical) and conceptual aspects of scientific research to be highly stimulating and rewarding. Ultimately, this led me to pursue an academic career. Under Les Hull’s direction, I spent the summer after my sophomore year at Union analyzing water samples that Steve Bertman ’85 collected at the top of Whiteface Mountain. My senior thesis research in Tom Werner’s lab (and during the summer of 1985 in the lab Prof. Rudi Seitz, University of New Hampshire) focused on the development of luminescent chemical sensors, an area of research that I continued to pursue in graduate school and during my faculty career.