Senior Scientific Consultant and former Associate Chemistry Professor, Dr. Adrienne Williams, talked with DNP123 about her career and interest in science. Over her career, Dr. Williams has cultivated a remarkably broad set of research interests spanning everything from graphene to biology-based electronics devices. Read the original interview here.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your career. What are you passionate about?
I am a true STEM interdisciplinary at heart, both in my academic and professional career. I obtained my Bachelor of Science Degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a cognate in Biotechnology from Michigan State University; a Master’s Degree in Chemistry from Fisk University; and a Doctoral Degree in Environmental Sciences/Engineering Physics from Wright State University.
I’ve worked as a Materials Engineer for the Air Force Research Laboratory, Process Development Engineer in industry, and served as an Academic Dean, Department Chair, and Associate Professor at various colleges and universities throughout Southern California.
I am truly passionate about bringing exposure of the STEM fields, particularly science and engineering, to underrepresented groups locally and globally.
How did you first get interested in nanoscience?
I first became interested in science when I was a child. My parents bought me my first telescope and microscope when I was just 12 years old. I would go outside with my father in the evenings and collect anything and everything to be able to bring it back inside my home and dissect. I was always fascinated with how things behaved inside and out!
Your Google Scholar page features a pretty diverse research background. You’ve had publications featuring everything from graphene to DNA-based electronic devices. How would you describe your research interests to a young person?
That’s a great question. I would describe my research as being innovative and still ongoing. My research involves one of the most abundant elements found on Earth: carbon! Carbon has so many cool and neat properties that this element alone is used in so many everyday devices. For example, a cell phone, a tablet, and a laptop computer to name a few. I’d show how using such an abundant element on Earth such as carbon has many benefits especially when paired with DNA based materials. It is low cost, and most importantly, environmentally friendly.
You’ve worked in both academia and industry. What would you say are the differences between the two?
There are so many differences between the two. I strongly believe if you are a hands-on type of person and like “growth” both mentally and career-wise, industry is the way to go. It provides better opportunities for networking and not to be siloed into doing your own thing. There is also room for research collaborations and more opportunities in general in industry than academia. Academia doesn’t offer as much room for growth or professional development, and you run the risk of being siloed. Lastly, academia has a much lower salary.
Tell us a bit about BioTeam. What drew you to your new position there? What kind of work are you doing?
BioTeam is a life sciences IT consulting company passionate about accelerating scientific discovery by closing the gap between what scientists want to do with data—and what they can do. Our mission is to accelerate science. Working at the intersection of science, data and technology since 2002, BioTeam has the interdisciplinary capabilities to apply strategies, advanced technologies, and IT services that solve the most challenging research, technical, and operational problems. Skilled at translating scientific needs into powerful scientific data ecosystems, we take pride in our ability to partner with a broad range of leaders in life sciences research, from biotech startups to the largest global pharmaceutical companies, from federal government agencies to academic research institutions.
At BioTeam we are scientists, data scientists, and technologists who are experts at translating scientific needs into a solution that works for an organization. I love this because we are here to help scientists achieve their goals. I’m really excited to be part of a team that is changing the world through scientific discovery.
What advice would you give to a freshman high school student inspired by your work? What’s the best thing they can do to prepare for a career in nano or other sciences?
Be curious! Curiosity has led to the most innovative technologies we use today. If you do not have curiosity, you will not be creative in your own right.
Own your work and keep striving for greatness. This will carry you throughout your academic and professional career.
Finally, accept failure or loss. Success requires failure. You will learn to become a better problem solver and provide many solutions to a problem.
Last question: If you had to hire a nanobot to do a job for you, what job would you hire it to do?
I would definitely hire a nanobot to have my breakfast and morning coffee ready, sitting at my desk before I begin work. I definitely need the energy boost in the mornings, sometimes in preparation for back-to-back meetings and working on high-level projects.