Chemist Sharon Haynie has devoted her career to serving the world and her local communities through science, developing materials that help heal and the body and working on programs to help heal some of science’s diversity problems.
Haynie was born in Baltimore, Maryland and developed an early interest in chemistry, which she attributes to great teachers and support from her mother. She earned a B.A. in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania (1976) and a Ph.D. in chemistry from MIT (1982). After grad school, she planned to join the Peace Corps but, when her application was turned down she didn’t get dejected – instead she turned to other ways to help serve – through science.
She worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories studying polymer degradation, then joined DuPont, where she spent most of her career. At DuPont, she was involved in numerous projects, many of which bridged biology and materials science – figuring out how to make materials that can help heal the body and learning from the body to create better materials.
A few of the biomedical projects she worked on where developing materials for vein replacements, wound healing, and antibiotics. In addition to biomedical research, she worked on “green chemistry” – finding more environmentally-friendly ways of making products.
Throughout her lifetime, she has been deeply involved in community outreach and service. She participated for years in the American Chemical Society (ACS)’ SEED (Summer Employment for Economically Disadvantaged) program, which provides financial support and a research experience to high school students who wouldn’t otherwise have such opportunities. Through the program, Haynie welcomed students into her laboratory during summers, provided them mentorship, and fostered their critical thinking and reasoning skills, helping set them up for whatever future career path they would later choose. She also reads recordings of science textbooks for people who are visually impaired or dyslexic.
Alongside her work at DuPont she held an Adjunct Professorship at the University of Delaware, chaired the Philadelphia Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 2003 and served as councilor representing her local ACS section at the national level for multiple years.
She was the first woman to win the NOBCChE Henry Hill Award (2006) and the first woman to win the Percy L. Julian award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (2008). She was elected a Fellow of the ACS in 2016.
Photo: Science History Institute