Sheila Ewing Browne

  • Professor Emeritus of Chemistry

Sheila Ewing Browne is a physical organic chemist whose current area of interest is polymer chemistry. Her research involves monitoring the biosynthesis and biodegradation of bacterial polyesters in vivo.

Since coming to Mount Holyoke in 1976, Browne has mentored more than 83 students during their independent research projects. More than 40 percent of those students were women of color. In 1998, in recognition of her many years of mentoring students at all levels, Browne received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. The annual program, administered on behalf of the White House by the National Science Foundation, identifies outstanding mentoring efforts and programs designed to enhance the participation of groups underrepresented in science, mathematics, and engineering. Among those recommending her for the award were the members of two Mount Holyoke student groups, Native Spirit and Sistahs in Science, who spoke of Browne's unrelenting work for and support of minority students at the College.

In addition to her activities on campus, Browne mentors two dozen students through the New England Board of Higher Education's Science and Engineering Academic Support Network.

Other MHC accomplishments of Browne's include her efforts to create more mentors. Recognizing the need for proactive advising, she organized faculty development workshops for the science departments. Browne also persuaded the College to extend these workshops to faculty in the humanities and social sciences.

Described by students as "funny, committed, awesome, supportive, enthusiastic, and animated," Browne has been known to use music to calm jittery nerves during labs. Browne was the first member of her family to graduate from high school; her generosity toward others and her verve perhaps stem from her firsthand knowledge of what it's like to go to college on scholarship and to be a minority, as she was one of only two women and the only one of Native American heritage in her entering Ph.D. class of 140 at the University of California, Berkeley.

Areas of Expertise

Physical organic chemistry; polymers


  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
  • B.S., University of Tennessee