ASU graduate earns doctorate after 4 decades away from school

December 13, 2016

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2016 commencement. See more graduates here.

When Mary Drago participated in her undergraduate commencement ceremony, the Ebola virus had not been discovered and the term global warming was used in its modern sense for the first time. A lot can change in 41 years, including Drago herself. School of Life Sciences graduate Mary Drago. Download Full Image

After finishing her bachelor’s degree in biology in 1975, Drago accomplished a great deal. She worked at a hospital, co-owned a software company and worked as an administrative assistant in the office of Multicultural Affairs at the University of Arizona College of Medicine–Phoenix.

But Drago always wanted to go to back to school and realized the tuition waiver she earned through her work meant there was no better time to hit the books. With a background in medicine, she searched graduate degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, stumbled upon the master’s degree program in bioethics and fell in love with the program’s description. When she completed her master’s in 2011, she decided to continue with her education and earn a doctorate in biology and society.

Going back to school took some adjusting. Not only was she studying a subject that required more writing and thinking than time in the lab, there were also new academic processes Drago had never dealt with before.

“The first time around, there was no such thing as APA, Chicago or any other bibliographical techniques,” Drago said. “My first paper after returning to school was a grueling exercise. I spent hours formatting.”

Still, she adapted to the new environment and managed to earn a doctorate with good grades, all while balancing a full-time time job. That, in and of itself, is delightful enough to make her proud.

Name: Mary Drago
Major, school/college: Biology (Biology & Society), the Bioethics, Policy & Law track/School of Life Sciences/College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I entered a master’s program at ASU in its inaugural year, and my “aha” moment, as well as the impetus for entering the program, was the description of the program. I recognized my lifelong interest in that program description.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I can’t say that it changed my perspective because I didn’t have a pre-conceived idea of how professors are, but I was extremely lucky, and learned firsthand, how committed the professors affiliated with the Center for Biology and Society are to the success of their students.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because it offered the master’s program in bioethics, and then I followed that with my doctorate.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but make sure you are giving your best effort.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I often met people at food venues on campus. Because I worked full-time on campus, I did my studying at home when work and school were over.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m hoping to find employment in the Phoenix area.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I have spent my graduate career examining the causes for health disparities, particularly among certain population groups. While $40 million dollars might not be enough to eliminate health disparities, I would put it toward that effort.

Jason Krell

Communication and events coordinator, Center for Evolution and Medicine


ASU chief of research and innovation named chair of APLU Council on Research

December 13, 2016

Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development and chief research and innovation officer at ASU, has been named chair of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Council on Research.

The APLU Council on Research (CoR) convenes vice presidents and chancellors of research from major public universities to coordinate on ways to grow and make more effective the shared research mission of their institutions. The council works to develop initiatives that strengthen research and teaching on campus and engage with federal lawmakers and agency officials to advance policies on a national level. CoR also serves as a forum to share knowledge and findings on key issues impacting APLU members and their campuses. Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development and chief research and innovation officer at ASU. Download Full Image

“We are delighted that Dr. Panchanathan will serve as the chair of the APLU Council for Research for 2017-2019,” said APLU Executive Vice President Howard Gobstein. “As the gifted research leader of ASU, Panch brings deep understanding of the research enterprise, keen interest in innovation and a broad international network, such as his service on the National Science Board. He will be an energetic guide for the 237 member institutions of APLU in sustaining their international leadership — conducting $43 billion of research and training 1.3 million graduate students.”

Panchanathan leads ASU’s $500 million knowledge enterprise, which advances research, innovation, strategic partnerships, entrepreneurship and global and economic development. ASU remains the fastest growing research institution in the country among organizations with more than $100 million in research expenditures. In 2014 President Barack Obama appointed him to the U.S. National Science Board. He has been appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Society of Optical Engineering.

“APLU has been a leading voice in advocating for the advancement of public universities in North America,” Panchanathan said. “I’m deeply honored to serve alongside my peers — research and graduate education administrators from across the U.S., Canada and Mexico — to contribute to APLU’s transformative work to advocate for federal policies that support public universities and the students they seek to serve.”

The APLU is a research, policy and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Read more online at

Media projects manager, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development