Professor Ismail on Running the Boston Marathon

April 13, 2017

Mariam Ismail

Find out what inspired Professor Mariam Ismail to run the Boston Marathon!

What do you teach in at Simmons?

I teach general inorganic chemistry, quantum mechanics and advanced inorganic chemistry as part of the Chemistry and Physics Department.

Tell us about your research.

I have four Simmons undergraduate students working in the lab. Our research focuses on two main aspects: (1) inorganic crystal growth of photocatalysts that have the potential to be activated under solar energy for environmental remediation and (2) using these synthesized photocatalysts towards the degradation of hazardous organic compounds that are often found in waste-water streams. We use advanced instrumental techniques such as X-ray powder diffraction and the scanning electron microscope which allow us to image crystals that are on the sub-micron size scale. 

What inspired you to make the move to teach at Simmons?

I first joined Simmons as an adjunct in 2013 and then as a full-time tenure track assistant professor in the fall of 2016.

One of the things that really stood out to me was how student-centered this college is. I found faculty providing students with resources so that they can gain confidence and go on to the next stages in their lives. I was also really drawn to how involved the chemistry and physics students were with research early on in their careers. That passion and drive is refreshing to see. 

What inspired you to run the Boston Marathon?

I ran the Big Sur Marathon in 2014 and have been hooked since. I loved how much I learned about myself throughout the rigorous training process.

I grew up watching the Boston Marathon. So I knew that I eventually wanted to run it. I also knew that I wanted to run as a charity runner to help raise awareness to a cause that’s dear to my heart. I applied this past fall to run for a non-profit organization called Dream Big! which provides young girls from low-income situations the basic items and fees necessary to enable them to participate in sports and physical activities that contribute to their health, education and overall well-being.

Having participated in sports myself, I knew the impact it had on my life and others as well. To be able to give back to my community, while doing something that I love, meant the world to me. I was so happy when Dream Big! offered me a spot on their team. 

What's your training routine?

Oh boy. My training routine has changed a bit throughout the years. Currently, it involves running 3 times a week, cross-training twice, and doing yoga once a week. It’s been a challenge to stick to my training schedule as I’ve progressed in my career. But I always remember something a mentor had once told me, which is that our health is the most important thing we can hold on to. If that slips away, everything else will eventually slip away. Training is now a necessity, just like food and sleep.

My favorite running route is the Charles River. You forget for a second that you’re in a busy city. Also the breeze by the water is so refreshing on a hot summer day. Not so much during the cold winter months though!

What are some challenges you've faced while training?

The cold temperatures. Specifically when the coaches had to cancel group runs because of the low temperatures, yet you still had to get yours done somehow. One week I had to run 16 miles on a treadmill because of an impending snow storm. Another time, I had to battle through 18 miles in what felt like -6 degrees.

Anyone that has trained for a marathon will tell you, the physical training is only one aspect. Gaining that mental strength is the rest. This journey has also taught me the power of positive thinking which I try to relay to my own students when they struggle with difficult concepts in chemistry. Breaking down that mental barrier is the first step in achieving success. 

What's the first thing you're going to do when you cross the finish line?

Hug my family and friends because without them, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this. Their support helped me through this training season.