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Women @ Energy: Allison Campbell

June 14, 2013 - 8:59am

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Dr. Allison Campbell is the Director of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. She is nationally recognized for her contributions toward materials development through her research in the field of biomaterials.

Dr. Allison Campbell is the Director of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. She is nationally recognized for her contributions toward materials development through her research in the field of biomaterials.

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Dr. Allison Campbell is the Director of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. She is nationally recognized for her contributions toward materials development through her research in the field of biomaterials, and she is credited with co-inventing a bio-inspired process to “grow” a bioactive calcium phosphate layer, from the molecular level, onto the surfaces of artificial joint implants (total hip and knee) to extend implant life and reduce rejection. She is also recognized for her work in understanding the role of proteins in biomineralization. Dr. Campbell has authored numerous peer reviewed technical papers, been an invited speaker at national and international meetings, and has several patents based upon her research. Additionally, she is an avid promoter of science education, sharing her enthusiasm for science with young students through a number of hands-on education programs. She earned her B.A. in Chemistry from Gettsyburg College and her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from State University of New York.

1)  What inspired you to work in STEM?  

My parents – both were in science.  My dad was a surgeon and my mom worked in a cancer lab. I was always inspired by them to want to have an impact on people and the things around me. As a child, I would spend time at my mom’s lab at her medical school. They’d talk about their work at home and I grew up comfortable with that language and understanding the scientific endeavor. In college, when I was introduced to physical chemistry, I started to blossom. I think it was because I encountered a professor there who was able to put the science into terms I easily understood.

2) What excites you about your work at the Energy Department? 

Operating a scientific user facility enables me to see the diversity of great science that is being done.  And the science is helping to address large complex problems in energy, environment and health areas. Working at a DOE national lab allows researchers such as myself to work across the spectrum of fundamental to applied science. We do that here at EMSL as well. I know we’re having impact as our scientists and our users support important BER programs.

3) How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?  

We need to show them successful role models, we need them to see how STEM solves our nation’s critical challenges, we need to show them that STEM careers are rewarding etc. Each year, we support PNNL’s Take Our Kids to Work Day event and it’s exciting to see the kids tour our facility and learn about the science. The energy in the building is just overwhelming on those days. It’s exciting to witness firsthand.

4) Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?  

Do what you are passionate about.  Work hard. My bachelor’s degree was a bachelor of arts, not science. That actually allowed me to be exposed to ways of thinking and courses that my peers who became scientists may not have had. It helped me build stronger presentation and writing skills, both of which can make a difference to a scientist submitting proposals and to becoming a leader of such a facility.

Women in science have come far but we have a long way to go. Women in particular can feel torn between having a work life and having a family life. Women need to understand it’s not an either/or. It’s an ‘and.’ It’s not easy to find that balance, and the balance shifts frequently, but it’s important to me that all of our staff feel like they can have that balance.

5) When you have free time, what are your hobbies?  I cycle, fish and spend time with family. I’ve been cycling to work for the past year and recently did a 100-mile ride with two fellow cyclists.

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