November 29, 2018 / All Stories

Scientists Rock! Fantastic scientists and where to find them

Science cast its spell early over budding young chemist Theresa Dunstan. Now, she battles the darkness of diseases with a different kind of magic.

Theresa Dunstan, scientist, AbbVie Bioresearch Center, climbing Mt. Moosilauke, New Hampshire, U.S.

Scientists Rock! is a monthly Q&A where we pull an AbbVie scientist out of the lab to hear what makes them tick. This month, we chat with Theresa Dunstan, scientist, AbbVie Bioresearch Center.

The maze-like hallways of high school were a chamber of secrets for muggle and self-proclaimed chemistry geek, Theresa Dunstan. But it wasn’t until one fateful afternoon of potion practice that her professional future was forever sealed in the sorcerer’s stone of scientific discovery.

Tell us the story of how you fell in love with science.

I always had an interest in science growing up, but high school is where I really fell in love with it. My first chemistry class brought with it a whole new world of discovery. Conducting experiments, running chemical reactions and interpreting the results … these were all so exciting to me. I also had a phenomenal teacher who was a huge source of inspiration and made chemistry a ton of fun. On one memorable occasion, our class hosted a Harry Potter-themed ‘potions’ class where we got to perform ‘magic’ for a group of local elementary school students. My favorite … a chemical reaction resulting in ‘elephant’s toothpaste’.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A number of things: teacher, meteorologist, veterinarian, forensic scientist. I always knew I wanted a job that emphasized both learning and problem-solving, and that would continue to challenge me. Being a chemist gives me all of this, with the added bonus of being able to help people through the development of new medicines.

What is your advice to kids interested in a career like yours?

Science is really a lot of fun, especially if you like learning. It can be hard work and frustrating at times, but I like to emphasize this … the rewards are worth it. Observe, question, experiment, and be creative.

If we were to ask your family what it is that you do, what would they say?

My family knows I am a chemist and that I make new medicines to help people with diseases. The manner in which I do this remains a bit elusive to them though. A colleague from my first internship summed it up beautifully when she said: “chemistry is cooking without the calories.”

What keeps you coming to work every day?

Not only do I get to make new medicines that could potentially help patients, but I also get to work amongst the most brilliant and creative minds who are striving toward the same goal. Whether it’s the small successes, like finally getting a challenging reaction to work … or the bigger ones, like bringing a new therapy to market, the science we do at AbbVie is exciting, innovative, and makes a difference in the lives of many.

In your opinion, why does science rock?

Science rocks because there are always exciting new things to discover, questions to answer, and frontiers to be explored. The world around us is ever changing, and being on the forefront of innovative medicines and scientific breakthroughs also rocks!

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Tags: R&D, Our People