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Dawn Shiang (BA 1983, PhD 1988)

Family is one of the consistent themes underscoring the successful life and career of Dawn Shiang. For starters, family was the motivating factor behind Dawn’s physicist father’s decision to seek a transfer from Los Angeles to St. Louis after his employer, Douglas Aircraft, merged with McDonnell Aircraft in the late 1960s.

"Dad put in for the transfer, and by 1970 we settled in rural Missouri, where he commuted 90 miles to and from work to get us out of city life," Dawn said. "He saw it as a win for the family."

Growing up, Dawn was particularly interested in science and wanted to become a doctor. She earned a Curators’ Scholarship for finishing in the top 3% of her graduating class in Troy, Missouri, and was the first woman from her school to be recruited for a basketball scholarship.

But family considerations would influence Dawn’s decision to enroll at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. While at UMSL, she says she experienced a very strong sense of family while studying chemistry.

Dawn Shiang

“Even though it was a commuter school, I made lifelong friends, and I am still close to many of the faculty, including my department head at the time,” Dawn said. “UMSL gave me the education to succeed and to plug into a pipeline for science that afforded me an exceptional career.”

UMSL is also where Dawn met her husband, Bill Shiang. Both graduated from UMSL with bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and PhDs in organic chemistry. After doing their postdoctoral work at Pennsylvania State University, Dawn and Bill joined Dow Chemical Company in 1990, living, working and raising their family in China and Switzerland, as well as the United States. During her 25-year career with the company, Dawn developed four patents in five years before pursuing a management track that culminated in her role as associate director of sustainable technologies.

After retiring from Dow Chemical in 2013, Dawn and Bill kept the family vibe strong, starting a hobby farm in southern Missouri. About an hour from the farm, in West Plains, Dawn began volunteering as an advocate for the 37th Judicial Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, amplifying the needs of kids in foster care, eventually serving as the organization’s executive director in 2017.

From her role as an innovator in the material sciences to her commitment to the foster children of Missouri, Dawn’s spirit of transformation has touched countless lives in positive ways.