By MATTHEW DIXON
“I probably should have become a movie star”.
Not the usual words for a professor, but Michael Harmata isn’t a normal academic. He was awarded the Liebig Professorship Award on July 13, from the Justus-Liebig University in Giesson, Germany.
After working in Germany in 1998 through 1999 and in 2008, the award was in recognition for his interest in American-German relations, his work at the University of Missouri and during his time in Germany.
The Norman Rabjohn Distinguished professor of chemistry realized he wanted to be an organic chemist in the middle of high school. He was awarded the Norman Rabjohn title for his work and teaching at MU.
This interest in organic chemistry has led to 24 years as a professor at Mizzou and culminated in the award. Harmata said this award will no doubt raise Missouri’s reputation.
“Anytime I can do anything to boost our press is a good thing”, he said.
The easiest way to explain what Harmata studies and researches can be described best by what most of his students end up doing; working in the pharmaceutical industry. The industry uses many of his students to try and help to develop new drugs
“But it’s not that easy because it not recipe following it’s about inventing new molecules” Harmata said.
Harmata has spent much of his time researching tuberculosis.
“We created a compound that was actually quite active against tuberculosis and we tested it on rats but it gave them ataxia which basically means it made them unsteady on their feet.”
While he and his team have not had a big breakthrough in the area, he is still adamant that his research will lead to a new discovery very soon.
“It doesn’t mean we are going to create a new drug of any type because that is really quite a big job, but we are really trying to push things forward as much as we can,” he said. “We are discovering many new things.”
While the award may have been given to Harmata personally he is very open to giving much of the praise to his students.
“Good science requires good teamwork,” he said. “All I do now is think. It’s the dynamic between advisor and student that when it works it’s really well.”
What the future holds for this Mizzou professor is unknown, but he sees himself staying at the college for a while longer yet
“Its been fun working here the past 24 years and if I could make it another 24 that would be great” he said. “I’m just looking forward to a number of good years ahead pushing the frontiers of science forward”.