An endowment providing graduate student support in honor of their mentors

A photo of Lan Wong and Deborah Chung.
Lan Wong (Chemistry PhD ’77) and Deborah Chung (Materials Science PhD ’77)

“Lan K. Wong, MIT PhD ’77 (V) and Deborah D.L. Chung, MIT PhD ’77 (III) both attended MIT in 1973-1977 for their PhD degrees.  Lan studied Chemistry under the late Professor Klaus Biemann, the Father of Organic Mass Spectrometry.  Deborah studied Materials Science under the late Professor Mildred S. Dresselhaus, the Queen of Carbon Science.  They met at the Infinite Corridor of MIT and were married in 1976.  Prior to joining MIT, Lan received his B.S. degree in Chemistry from California State University, Northridge (CSUN).  He was advised by CSUN Professor Henry Abrash to become an NSF undergraduate research fellow at UCLA working on conformational analysis of cyclic compounds using low-temperature NMR spectroscopy under Professor Frank Anet. Meanwhile, Deborah received her B.S. and M.S. degrees from California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and did research on amorphous metals under the late Professor Pol Duwez. She was one of the first four woman graduates of Caltech (1973).

Deborah is a Professor in University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. Her research areas include multifunctional structural materials, thermal interface materials and electromagnetic shielding materials.  Her inventions include smart concrete. She is Fellow of ASM International and American Carbon Society. She is ranked 14th among all materials researchers worldwide (living/deceased), 1st among those that are female, and 1st among researchers across all fields in University at Buffalo (Stanford University study, 2020). Other honors which she received include the Pettinos Award from the American Carbon Society, the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation Endowed Chair Professorship, the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship from the State University of New York, and an Honorary Doctorate degree from University of Alicante, Spain.

In 1977, as an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology in the Ohio State University College of Medicine, Lan received numerous honors including the Outstanding Award in Teaching and a Recognition Award in Research from the Ohio Heart Association. After moving to the University of Pittsburgh, he was made a tenured Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1983. His research work led to patents of anti-inflammatory agents, the development and screening of potential anti-cancer compounds, and approved new drug application (NDA) of cardiovascular pharmaceutical products. In addition to teaching and research, Lan was active in the organizing committee of the Pittsburgh Conference and Exhibition on Analytical Chemistry and Instrumentation.  As well, he was one of the first to promote pharmaceutical collaboration between the U.S. and China in both academia and industry. Now retired, Lan remains active in promoting STEM education and social mobility.  He established the Distinguished Speaker Series on the Path to Professional Success in CSUN, in addition to establishing scholarships in MIT, CSUN and Christian Central Academy (K-12, Buffalo, NY).

Lan and Deborah have been considering their giving plans in relation to estate planning in recent years.  The unpredictable Covid-19 pandemic prompted them to accelerate their estate plan into today’s action plan, which will allow them to witness firsthand the positive impact of the resources which God has provided them.

Their MIT endowment also serves to honor their mentors, Professors Biemann and Dresselhaus.  In addition, the endowment provides graduate student support in memory of Lan’s mother, Mrs. Pui King Ho Wong (王何佩琼, 1918-2005).  Mrs. Wong grew up in southern China and did not have the opportunity to complete elementary school, due to scanty resources after the 1911 Chinese Revolution that overthrew the last emperor of China. The family-style paper-box business of Lan’s father in Hong Kong failed when Lan was in elementary school. Lan’s mother unceasingly coached her children to focus on their studies. With her perseverance, Lan and his three siblings subsequently completed their PhD degrees in the U.S.  Lan has experienced firsthand how crucial support for education is for social mobility.”

– Lan K. Wong and Deborah D.L. Wong