News Story

Dr. Yao-Ying Ma Recognized as 2016 Career Champion

Dr. Yao-Ying MaThe Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development launched the “Career Culture” initiative in 2015 to encourage cross-campus collaboration to prepare students for life after graduation. As a part of this initiative, the Fleishman Center sponsors a nomination-based Career Champions Recognition event to celebrate select faculty and staff for their roles in empowering students to find their purpose, identify and reach their career goals, prepare for and solidify future professional plans, or gain full-time employment.

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Dr. Yao-Ying Ma, is one of 74 nominees recognized at the Career Champions event on Nov. 10, 2016. Nominated by two students for her demonstrated commitment to career preparedness, Ma demonstrates all of the qualities of a true Career Champion and excels far beyond her role as a professor. Not only is her vibrancy and passion for psychology infectious in the classroom, but she also strives to help her students succeed beyond college life. Ma hired Jonathan Salas, senior double majoring in integrative neuroscience and psychology, as a research assistant. Salas says he was “unqualified to perform the duties she needed,” yet Ma looked past that to see his passion and spent the winter break training him individually.

“I wholeheartedly believe that nobody else in the University would have gone to such great lengths to give me such intense, impactful and significant training,” he said of the experience.

Salas was an undergraduate working at the grad student level and felt uncertain about which path to pursue. Ma’s guidance through the pros and cons of possible decisions led him to pursue a PhD in behavioral neuroscience.

Dr. Ma has told her students that she will do anything to help their careers and has proven this by writing countless recommendations that have directly impacted student acceptance to grad schools, fellowship grants and awards. Aside from writing recommendations, Ma also has taken the time to reach out to peers in other universities where her students have applied.

Though her classes are challenging and her material thorough, Ma’s goal is for all of her students to earn an A and fully understand the material. Ma is always willing to supplement her teachings with her own explanations of real-world phenomena. She regularly meets with students to discuss career paths, lab problems or academic issues. She teaches students everything needed to run an experiment, test their ideas, perform behavioral training and handle controlled substances. If her students are on the brink of quitting, she cheers them on and encourages them to work through their difficulties. If her students make mistakes during experiments, Ma remains calm and helps correct them.

“Most importantly, she gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my dream of becoming a physician. When everyone else in my life said ‘maybe you should do something else,’ she was there to spur me on. If and when I accomplish my Neuroscience research career goals, I know that I will look back and say that it was all possible because of Dr. Yao-Ying Ma,” says second nominator Matthew Wend, recent graduate majoring in integrative neuroscience. “I will never be able to thank her enough.”

  -Written by Stacey Schimmel '18, BA in English rhetoric and political science