Maria O. Longas, age 77, was born in Columbia on November 13, 1943 and died January 7, 2021 at Sebo’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hobart, IN from complications from COVID-19.
Maria was a pioneer in research on hyaluronic acid in aging, a dedicated scholar and a friend and mentor to countless.
Maria was born in Columbia to parents who highly valued education. Although she was the sole daughter in the family, her family encouraged her to study at Hunter College in New York City. While there she received the Emma Wagner Ackerle Scholarship Award for the Exceptionally Gifted Student and received her BA in chemistry (cum laude) in 1971. She continued her studies and received an MA from New York University in 1973.
In her resume, Maria described her work leading to the PhD as, and I quote, “Using radioactive isotopes, chemical and biochemical techniques, I demonstrated that the reaction of thrombin with its natural inhibitor, Antithrombin III, yielded a carboxylic ester between the two proteins. This ester has been confirmed by other workers, using X–ray crystallography. After obtaining an MA in chemistry, I had a full timeposition as a research assistant at New York University Medical Center (1974–1978), while working on my Ph.D. at night and over the weekends.”
Maria then pursued her postdoctoral training at Columbia University School of Medicine with Dr. Karl Meyer (who is known for isolating two mucopolysaccharides, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate). She moved to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, first as a Fellow and later as an Assistant Professor before joining Purdue University Calumet, PUC, now Purdue University Northwest, PNW, in 1987. She thrived in the classroom and received the Outstanding College Teacher Award from PUC in 1990. Maria was acting Department Head before her promotion to full professor in 1996. She received grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, among others, and published more than 25 papers in refereed journals. She retired from PNW in August 2019.
While teaching and research in chemistry was her passion, Maria also enjoyed hobbies and supported charities. As a lover of art, she visited museums, went to plays and wrote poetry. Her poems were compiled in a publication entitled Reminiscences, with one reviewer noting her “great compassion and love.” A translated excerpt from one poem is as follows,
…This Angel was incredible.
With alleluia of bright
And diverse colors.
Now he is resting by my bed,
And sends me the peace
I desperately need.
May this be her foresight of her final peace and may we remember her compassion and love.
Funeral Arrangements pending and will be updated as soon as available.
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