Get to know Angela Mammana

Angela MammanaAsk the average, American 10-year-old what they want to be when they grow up. You'll get a variety of answers: a firefighter; an actor; a policeman; or a chef. Ten-year-old Angela Mammana decided, "I want to become a professor at a university doing both teaching and research."

She is now living her childhood dream as an assistant professor teaching biochemistry courses to undergraduate and graduate students here, at the University of Dayton. Her research focuses on spectroscopy and supramolecular chemistry.

Angela was born and raised in Italy, where education is experienced quite differently. Once students hit middle school they must decide the path they want to take. Angela explained, unlike how students in America choose the classes they want to take and have a certain flexibility of schedule, such as in high school or college, Italian students choose the school they want to attend; then, they stick to that program. Rather than going the direction of languages or humanistic pursuits, Angela chose science. In the small Sicilian town of Grammichele, her dreams of success in academia began.

"I chose scientific because I like science-related everything," she said, twirling her pen. Recounting her years as a student, she described the day she graduated from University. In Italy, graduation is not like here, once a year, with an entire class present, Angela explained. In Italy, approximately 15 students at a time present their thesis, answer questions about it, defend their results, "and then, in that moment, you're standing in front of the committee dressed in robes, and the president of the committee declares you a doctor and gives you a grade." She continued, "I was really proud of myself at that moment. I felt like I did it and I worked hard and I was able to reach my goal." Her score? A perfect 130 out of 130.

Since graduating from that program with the Italian equivalent to an American master’s degree, Angela has traveled the world in academic pursuit. She spent a year in New York City as a visiting scholar at Columbia University. It was in the Big Apple that Angela accepted herself as a professional in research. "Sharing with others, I realized how important the publication process was," she said, describing the eye-opening effect it had on her when her coworkers began to explain the significance of the journals she was publishing in. "That was the experience that changed me the most," she said. It was during this time Angela realized she might like to live in the United States and further her career here. Meeting her future husband didn't hurt that decision, either.

Angela continued, doing postdoctorate work in the Netherlands, taking full advantage of the employee benefits offered in that country to travel to many others. Morocco and Prague top the list, though she did make sure to mention never to ask an Italian how they liked the food. "If you ask an Italian, the food isn’t good somewhere else. But it was interesting," she said, politely.

Since settling down in Dayton two years ago with her first teaching job at UD, Angela had a child, Ashley, who is now six months old. She has returned to Italy only once due to strict Green Card requirements, but hopes soon to become a legalized United States citizen — it’s part of the five-year-plan. I can see myself "possibly being American," she said, wistfully. "I want to do that because this is where, unless something happens from a work point of view, we (my husband and I) would like to remain. To live without citizenship is like to be a guest." For someone who enjoys being active in social and political arenas (Angela ran for city council at 21), having the ability to participate is important. "I can’t run for president," she remarked, "but who knows? I might run for governor of Ohio. Or maybe my daughter (who has dual Italian-American citizenship by birthright) will run."

Additionally, Angela will continue to publish her research, adding to her 14 already-published papers. She hopes to become a fully-tenured professor. She will continue to teach and counsel students both in and out of the classroom.

Her favorite part about teaching? "I enjoy when I see that I have a response from the students, and I like when they come to my office during office hours," she said, smiling. "If [students] don’t ask questions," she warned, "or have doubts, they're not using the tools that are given to them."

Dr. Angela Mammana can be found in her office on the fourth floor of the Science Center, room 414, to answer any chemistry-related questions, or personal ones, should this introduction leave some room for a follow-up.