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Scientist Celebrates 40 Years of Service, Teaching and Research

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Four decades ago, Cal State Fullerton biochemist Maria C. Linder left her research and teaching post at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to join Cal State Fullerton — and has never looked back.

The nationally recognized scientist moved to the West Coast for personal reasons: Her husband’s job relocation to the Los Angeles area.

“I never expected to be out here in California,” said Linder, who was an associate professor of chemistry at MIT and grew up in New York City. “I’m a city girl, so it was a big change.

“When I applied, I didn’t think Cal State Fullerton was likely to be the right place for me. But during my interview, I was impressed by the faculty in the department and the college, and found there was a culture of research from the start — that I could balance my research with teaching.”                           

Linder, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was recognized April 12 for her 40 years of service during the 2016-17 University Awards Program. 

Linder, who earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Vassar College in New York and her doctorate in biochemistry from Harvard University, has been a mentor to hundreds of students in her laboratory. Students have collaborated with her on research that focuses on examining how copper and iron function in the body. Her work also has contributed to a greater understanding of cancer.

Over the years, Linder has garnered over $12 million in research grants, authored 137 scientific publications and two books, directed the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Scholars Program, and has received numerous accolades for her research and teaching.

Those honors include CSUF’s 1985 Outstanding Professor Award and the inaugural recipient of the L. Donald Shields Excellence in Scholarship and Creativity Award in 2013. She also received the California State University Wang Family Excellence Award in 2007, and last year, became a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

At age 78, Linder, who has a stepson and four grandchildren, has no plans on retiring. To this day, she commutes by car to campus from her home in Burbank. She and her husband of nearly 43 years, Gordon Nielson, settled there as a compromise so he was close to work, and she was near a metropolitan city.

Linder wants to continue doing research and educating future scientists: “I’m proud of my own research accomplishments, as well as the work of my students. It’s been rewarding to be a mentor and interact with the wonderful young people entering the sciences, and to help them achieve their goals.”