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Dr. Michael Summers

University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

In May 2016, Michael Summers became one of only 84 people from 14 countries to be elected to membership in the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. One of the highest honors that a researcher can receive, Summers’ election recognizes his exceptional contributions to the scientific community, along with his work to retain underrepresented populations in science.

Tell us about your research.

My research focus is on HIV-1, the retrovirus that causes AIDS. Using an imaging technique called nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, we have helped to develop new ways of inhibiting the virus, providing insight into how it functions and how new drugs could be developed.

How are you working to retain future scientists?

In the last 20 years or so, there has been a quantitative loss of interest in science. It really scares me to know that even more so, large numbers of minorities and women start college intending to study science, but then end up changing majors. It’s about letting students know you’re paying attention to them, and you’re there to offer your support. That was something I had—something that was just part of the culture at UWF.

What is your stand-out memory from your time at UWF?

I remember one day, I showed up to Dr. Jerome Gurst’s organic chemistry class wearing flip-flops. It just wasn’t safe, because we’re in there working with glass and acids. It was clearly not one of my better choices, and he promptly threw me out of his lab. The chemistry professors at UWF are deeply committed and supportive of their students but hold them to very high standards.