Scientists Rock! is a monthly Q&A where we pull an AbbVie scientist out of a lab to hear what makes him or her tick. This month, we chat with Vincent S. Stoll, Ph.D., research fellow and associate director of structural biology, AbbVie. Known as Vinnie, he wears Hawaiian shirts in the lab and loves to talk about science and drug discovery even when he’s not at work. Just ask his family, who can define a “structure-based drug design strategy” in between innings at a baseball game. Because Vinnie believes science shouldn’t be stuffy. It should be full of creativity and thoughtfulness and getting to answers in a way no one ever thought of before.
Tell us the story of how you fell in love with science.
As a kid, I was fascinated by fossils, anthropology, archeology, zoology and astronomy. When I was 10 years old, I met Richard Leaky and Jane Goodall and from there I was hooked. I took lots of classes at the Natural History Museum in Cleveland with my dad throughout my childhood.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Up until my second year of college I figured I would go somewhere in natural sciences, ecology, zoology or maybe become a veterinarian, but the plan changed when I took organic chemistry with a professor who changed my life - Hilton Weiss at Bard College. He taught me to think and reason in a way that was transformational and gave me the confidence I never thought I could have. That is when I started to shift toward chemistry and biochemistry, steering me toward what I do today at AbbVie.
If we were to ask your family what it is that you do, what would they say?
He helps make drugs that help people. Most of them even know the term structure-based drug design.
“Love learning, always be curious and don’t just ask questions, but seek answers! Keep an open mind and see where it takes you.”
If you could talk to the 10-year-old version of yourself, what would you tell yourself about your career?
You would be amazed how far your interests can take you and the direction is completely different and more rewarding than you ever imagined. I would tell myself: “You are capable of much more difficult things than you ever imagined.”
What is your advice to kids interested in a career like yours?
Love learning. Always be curious and don’t just ask questions, but seek answers! Keep an open mind and see where it takes you.
What’s one thing that you think is surprising about your job?
Science and creativity are linked. And honestly, this is exactly the reason I love the field so much. Many people assume science is rigid, full of rules and analytical thinking, but the role of creativity can’t be overlooked. Art and music stimulate the mind and are critical to see both the intuitive side of science and the analytical side.
In your opinion, why does science rock?
It is challenging but you can see and discover such amazing things and when successful, you can change lives. Not many jobs allow you to have such an impact. It is incredibly rewarding.