Hong Ma, professor of biology and Huck Distinguished Research Professor of Plant Molecular Biology at Penn State, has been selected as the new associate dean for research and innovation in the Eberly College of Science. In this position, Ma will supervise the college’s Research Administration Office, which is responsible for grant administration and funding opportunities for faculty, staff, and graduate students. He will also supervise the college’s Office for Innovation, which works together with the Office of Technology Management and the Office for Industrial Partnerships to assist inventors in capturing intellectual property, provide academic resources and support to entrepreneurs, and connect industrial networks to enlarge the societal impact of innovations developed in the college.
As associate dean for research and innovation, Ma hopes to promote both basic and applied research across the Eberly College of Science and strengthen integration of research with training and diversity at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Ma’s research focuses on understanding the molecular basis of plant reproductive biology and the evolutionary relationships among flowering plants. His research group uses molecular genetics, cell biology, genomics, and bioinformatics to study the formation of reproductive cells in plants, the gene networks that control anther and pollen development, and the gene regulatory elements that ensure successful reproductive development in response to environmental changes. His group also has identified genes involved in pollen production and meiosis—the cell division that results in gametes—that are conserved in plants and animals. Ma’s group also studies the evolution of the genes important for plant reproduction and uses genomic data to build phylogenetic trees, which can provide a framework for addressing evolutionary questions about the rate and timing of the divergence of flowering plant species and tracing the history of morphological and other characteristics.
Ma was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2011, an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. He was honored with the Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal in the Life and Health Sciences and a National Institutes of Health Senior Fellowship in 2005. Additionally, Ma was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for his exceptional scholarship and significant record of publication for 2004 to 2005 and received the American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award for 1994 to 1997.
Ma earned a bachelor’s degree at Temple University in 1983 and a doctoral degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1988. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology from 1988 to 1990. Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State in 1998, Ma was an investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory from 1990 to 1998. From 2008 to 2016, Ma was dean of the School of Life Sciences at Fudan University in China before rejoining the faculty at Penn State in 2017.