Ralph Mumma, Ph.D.

Ralph Mumma, Ph.D.

  • Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Environmental Quality
Chemical Ecology Laboratory
University Park, PA 16802


  • 1956 - B.S. Juniata College, Chemistry
  • 1960 - Ph.D. Penn State University, Organic Chemistry, minor in Biochemistry
  • 1977 - 1978 Sabbatical, Visiting Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Department of Marine Biology, University of California, San Diego, CA

Professional Experience

1960 - 196l Postdoctoral position with Dr. A. A. Benson, Department of Biochemistry, The Pennsylvania State University
196l - 1966 Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, Department of Biochemistry, The Pennsylvania State University
1966 - 1968 Assistant Professor of Chemical Pesticides, Department of Entomology, The Pennsylvania State University
1968 - 1972 Associate Professor of Chemical Pesticides
1970 - Date Consultant – United Nations, USAID, USDA, IAEA, U.S. Industries
1972 - 1990 Professor of Chemical Pesticides
1990 - 1997 Distinguished Professor of Environmental Quality
1997 - Date Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Environmental Quality
2001 - 2004 Senior Scientist, Exygen Research

Past Teaching Responsibilities

Insect Physiology, Insect Biochemistry, Pheromones, Carbohydrates, Biophysical Chemistry, Instrumental Methods of Analysis, Radiochemical Methods in Agriculture

Areas of Research Competency:

I. Environmental Quality

  1. Fate of pesticides in plants, insects, soils, and water.
  2. Use of plant tissue cultures to study metabolism of xenobiotics
  3. Amino acid conjugates of pesticides, synthesis, biological activity and quantification
  4. Immulogical assays for pesticides
  5. Development of analytical methods for pesticide residues
  6. Use of nutron activation as a tool for environmental analysis
  7. Identification and quantification of volatiles of agricultural waste
  8. Mass spectrometric methods for agrochemical analysis

II. Chemical Ecology

  1. Insect plant interactions
  2. Defensive agents of trichomes of plants

Other Professional Activities

I. University Related Activities, Past and Present

  1. Numerous department, college and university committees

II. External Activities

  1. Periodic Reviewer of Articles for Journals
    Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, Journal of Chemical Ecology, Science, Analytical Biochemistry, Biochimica Biophysica Acta, Annals of the Entomology Society of America, Canadian Journal of Microbiology, Environmental Entomology, American Chemical Society Symposium Series
  2. Periodic Reviewer for Grants
    National Science Foundation, USDA Competitive Grants, Benjamin Franklin Grant Program
  3. Past member of Northeastern Regional Research Projects (25 years) dealing with agrochemical metabolism, analysis and environmental fate
  4. Past State Liason Representative (> 20 years) for Interregional USDA Project #4 on minor use of pesticides
  5. Past-Member of the Program and Executive Committees of the Division of Agrochemicals of theAmerican Chemical Society
  6. Treasurer, Division of Agrochemicals, American Chemical Society
  7. Consultant to UN, USAID, USDA, Foreign Laboratories, US Industries

III. International Experience

  1. Co-director of a course on Radiochemical Techniques in Agriculture presented at the University of Costa Rica by the FAO/IAEA branch of the United Nations (Vienna, Austria) 1985
  2. Visiting expert for one month to the Natural Science Research Insitute of The Univ. of Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City and to the National Crop Protection Center, The Univ. of the Phillippines, Los Banos, on behalf of IAEA Branch of the United Nations, 1989.
  3. A two week trip to China in 1990 to study pesticide production, use, regulations and research. Supported by USDA Department of International Development and Cooperation. Institutes and universities visited were in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Guangzhou.
  4. Visiting expert for one month to government and university laboratories in Panama, dealing with radiochemical uses in agricultural research on behalf of IAEA Branch of the United Nations, 1990.
  5. A one-month assignment on behalf of US AID to Swaziland, Africa, to arrange to set up a major pesticide analytical laboratory for the Swaziland government. This trip involved numerous visits to South Africa and a trip to Madagascar, 1990.
  6. A three-week trip to Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Columbia presenting lectures and visiting laboratories, 1992.
  7. Visiting expert for two weeks to Panama evaluating pesticide research programs on behalf of the IAEA Branch of the United Nations, 1995.
  8. Visiting expert for two weeks to San Jose, Costa Rica, helping to direct laboratory personnel and implement QA/QC and GLP in Dr. Elizabeth Carazo's Analytical Laboratory on behalf of the IAEA Branch of the United Nations, 1998.


  1. Cancer Society Fellowship, 1957
  2. DuPont Fellowship, 1959
  3. Awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Norway, in 1960 (Took another position, instead of the Fellowship.)
  4. Past Chairman, Central Pennsylvania Section of the American Chemical Society, past member of the Program and Executive Committee and the Treasurer (1994-date) of the Division of Agrochemicals of the American Chemical Society
  5. Member of Sigma Xi
  6. IR-4 Meritorious Service Award, 1985
  7. CIBA-GEIGY Award for Outstanding Contributions to Agriculture, 1986
  8. Penn State Gamma Sigma Delta Research Award, 1989
  9. Named Distinguished Professor of Environmental Quality in 1990.
  10. Elected Fellow of the Division of Agrochemicals of the American Chemical Society, 1995
  11. Howard Palmer Faculty Mentoring Award, The Pennsylvania State University, 1996
  12. The Alex Laurie Award by the Ohio Florists' Association, 1998
  13. The American Chemical Society International Award for Research in Agrochemicals, 2001

Professional Society Memberships

American Association for the Advancement of Science (past)
American Chemical Society
Past member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Entomological Society of America
Entomological Society of Pennsylvania
Division of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, ACS
Division of Agrochemicals, ACS
International Chemical Ecology Society

Invited Lectures (past 30 years)

Michigan State University
University of California, Pesticide Science Laboratory, Berkeley, CA
University of California at Berkeley, at Davis, and at the Scripps Institution of
Oceanography, San Diego, CA
University of Nebraska
Iowa State University, Paul Dahm Lecturer
University of Costa Rica at San Jose, Costa Rica
University of the Philippines at Los Banos and Quezon City
University of Panama at Panama City and David
Several Chinese Institutions and Universities
University of Santiago, Santiago, Chile
International Symposium on Natural Products, Valparaiso, Chile
International Chemical Ecology Society, Los Banos, Chile
International Potato Institute, Lima, Peru
International Tropical Agriculture Center, Cali, Columbia
International Geranium Conference, Odense, Denmark
Metabolism and Radiation Research Laboratory, USDA, Fargo, ND
Gordon Research Conference, Drug Metabolism, Plymouth, NH
Gordon Research Conference, Chemical Ecology, Oxnard, CA
Sixth and Seventh International Congress of Pesticide Chemistry, Canada and Germany

Industries: American Cyanamid, Princeton, NJ; BASF, Parsippany, NJ; CIBA-GEIGY, Greensboro, NC; CIBA-GEIGY, Basle, Switzerland; Dow Chemical, Midland, MI; DuPont,Wilmington, DE; FMC, Princeton, NJ; Hoffman LaRoche, Nutley, NJ; Miles Laboratory, Elkhart, IN; Pfizer, Inc., New York, NY; Uniroyal, Nagaugatuck, CT

Evidence of Professional Competency

I. Publications

Over 250 articles have been published and these publications can be grouped in the general areas of: Environmental Quality, Chemical Ecology and Biochemistry.

II. Graduate Students Directed

Thirty-one students have received advanced degrees under Dr. Mumma's direction and seventeen of these received their PhD degrees.

III. Graduate Student Committees

Dr. Mumma has served on over ninety PhD or MS student committees from a variety of departments and disciplines (Agronomy, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Entomology, Forestry, Food Science, Horticulture, Plant Pathology, Plant and Animal Physiology, Ecology, and Genetics).

IV. Postdoctorals and Visiting Professors

Twenty-two postdoctorals or visiting professors representing many nations have worked with Dr. Mumma.

V. Consultant

Formally and informally consulted for numerous agriculturally oriented companies and organizations including the following: Centre Analytical Laboratory, American Cyanamid, Uniroyal, Rohm and Haas, DuPont, FMC, CIBA-GEIGY, Penick, Stauffer, Elanco, Mobay, Immuno-Systems, Great Lakes Biochemical, Pfizer, Miles, Ohmicron, the United Nations, USAID, and foreign laboratories. The subjects of this consulting includes: 1) the fate of pesticides in soils, water and plants, 2) the usefulness of plant tissue cultures as a metabolism tool, 3) selection of pesticide resistant plants through tissue culture, 4) the effect of pesticides on soil microorganisms, 5) immunological assays for environmentally sensitive chemicals, 6) exposure of agricultural workers to pesticides, 7) analysis for pesticides residues, 8) interpretation of mass spectra, and 9) HPLC/MS/MS.

VI. Papers Presented

In addition to the thirty invited papers or symposia over forty additional papers have been presented at meetings.

VII. Book Chapters

Fourteen articles have been published as book chapters.

VIII. Books Edited

Coedited two books

IX. Two Patents Issued.

Significant Accomplishments

A summary of significant accomplishments of Ralph Mumma's Laboratory is given below and can roughly be grouped into three main categories: 1) Environmental Quality, 2) Chemical Ecology, and 3) Biochemical subjects.

Environmental Quality (1965-1997)

  1. Contributed to our knowledge of the fate of agrochemicals with special emphasis on fate in plants (1965-1997).
  2. The first laboratory to demonstrate root uptake of a halogenated hydrocarbon insecticide (dieldrin) by forage crops and wheat (1966-1968).
  3. Demonstrated the use of mass spectrometry for pesticide residue analysis (1966), and has continued to use this technique.
  4. The first person to develop and demonstrate the usefulness of laser ion mass spectrometry for analysis of polar and ionic organic salts (1968-1972). Mumma's and Vastola's papers have been cited as the pioneering work in this area of matric assisted laser ionization mass spectrometry.
  5. Pioneered the use of plant tissue culture as a tool for the metabolism of agrochemicals. Demonstrated its use for comparative studies and for mass production of metabolites. The first laboratory to regenerate whole cotton plants from commercially important cotton tissue cultures (US Patent) (1972-1986).
  6. Specialized on the study of the metabolism and fate of phenoxyherbicides (1972-1986).
  7. Specialized in developing analytical methods for amino acid conjugates of xenobiotics (1972-1979).
  8. The first laboratory to develop immunological assays for analysis of pesticides and pioneered its development (1979-1997). This technique has been commercialized and is now widely used. Dr. Mumma has consulted for numerous years on the development of immunoassay kits.
  9. Developed applicator-exposure data useful for regulatory agencies (1984-1988).
  10. Analyzed numerous pesticides and environmental pollutants for their mutagenicity or promutogenicity effects utilizing bacterial test systems (Ames' Test) (1983-1988).
  11. Contributed to our knowledge and understanding of the movement of agrochemicals in our ecosystem following application of the agrochemical with emphasis on water movement relative to agricultural procedures on corn production and turfgrass practices (1986-1997).
  12. The first research group to regenerate commercially important cotton plants from tissue cultures. Penn State, along with Dr. Mumma and collaborators, received a patent for this development (1987).
  13. Demonstrated the usefulness of neutron activation to analyze heavy metal pollutants. One of the few persons at Penn State to have used the Penn State Breazeale Nuclear Reactor for 38 years.

Chemical Ecology (1971-1997)

  1. Contributed to our knowledge on the chemical defensive agents of water beetles (Dytiscids, Gyrinids). These studies resulted in the discovery of new chemical structures and their biological significance was evaluated (1971-1983).
  2. Studied collaboratively the sex pheromone and behavior of the oak leaf roller. Determined it's life cycle, feeding preferences, and parasites. (1973-1977).
  3. Identified the chemicals of the glandular trichome exudates of geraniums as anacardic acids and showed they are responsible for mite resistance in geranium. Evaluated their biochemical and physiological significance. Proposed a model for biosynthesis of anacardic acids and showed that they are derived from a unique unsaturated fatty acid present only in the tall glandular trichomes of resistant geraniums. Chemical and bioassay analysis of the F1, F2 and BC generation determined that one gene was responsible for the presence of the w5-unsaturated anacardic acids, and this correlated with resistanced (1984-1998).
  4. Isolated and cloned a novel delta 9 14:0-ACP Fatty Acid desaturase from geraniums which is responsible for the mite resistance of geraniums. U.S. Patent. (1995-1998).

Biochemical Subjects (1961-1973)

  1. Contributed to our knowledge on the lipid composition of plants, insects and thermophylic and entomophylic fungi (1961-1973).
  2. Developed a new procedure for the mild synthesis of sulfate esters of organic compounds, utilizing carbodiimides. Demonstrated wide applicability of this new procedure. This reaction has been used commercially to produce steroid sulfates (1966-1971).
  3. Demonstrated the usefulness of ascorbic acid sulfate to act as a sulfating agent in biological tissues (1968).
  4. First to synthesize and isolate ascorbic acid sulfate from animal tissues (1968-1972).