Scientists Rock! is a monthly Q&A where we pull an AbbVie scientist out of his or her lab to hear what makes them tick. This month, we talked to Ashley Adams, Ph.D., senior scientist, discovery chemistry and technology, AbbVie. Even as a child, she’s always wanted to forge new paths and make new discoveries, here she shares how she was inspired to find the right scientific fit.
How did you fall in love with science?
As the child of two teachers, I was always encouraged to read, explore and learn as much as I could about anything and everything. My fascination with chemistry started when I took a chemistry class my junior year of high school. My teacher had previously worked at a pharmaceutical company and arranged a field trip for our class to their medicinal chemistry site. On that trip, my most vivid memory was sitting in a conference room and looking at a projection of an x-ray crystal structure of a protein with a drug molecule bound to it. The scientist describing it commented on the way that the compound interacted with specific residues on the protein. That was a crystallizing moment for me. Up until that point, I had found the analytical side of chemistry interesting but in that moment, I caught a glimpse of the art within the science.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. Looking up at the night sky at the constellations was something I looked forward to. I particularly loved learning about the origins of the space program- forging new paths and making discoveries really fascinated me. Flight, the memoir of the first NASA flight director, is still one of my favorite books.
“Science is all about answering questions: Both the questions that have been asked and defining the next wave of questions that haven’t even been conceived of yet.”
What is your advice to children interested in a career like yours?
Find something you love to learn about and then take every opportunity you have to study it. Take as many different classes as you can until you find something that is right for you. Scientists come in all different types and if you haven’t found the type of science that excites you yet – keep looking.
If we were to ask your family what it is that you do, what would they say?
The little ones in my extended family would say that I help make medicines to make people better.
What keeps you coming to work every day?
At AbbVie, I get to do exciting and groundbreaking science with colleagues who are passionate about what we do here. Working together we have the opportunity to make a real difference in the world by bringing new therapies to patients. Who wouldn’t get excited about that?
In your opinion, why does science rock?
I’m still fascinated by forging new paths into the unknown. Science is all about answering questions: Both the questions that have been asked and defining the next wave of questions that haven’t even been conceived of yet. Science allows us to more deeply understand and engage with the world around us through asking these questions and making new discoveries.