A Keen Collaborator
Sitting Down With… Chris Palmer, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Montana, USA
How did you get into science?
I was motivated by my father’s example. He was an industrial food scientist who went on to become a professor at both MIT and Virginia Tech. I also loved chemistry, probably because of the quantitative relationships integral to the field. I much preferred that to the list-memorizing you might do in other fields. So I set out to study chemistry, first with a Bachelor’s degree at Juniata College and then a PhD at the University of Arizona, and later with a series of postdocs in Virginia, the Netherlands (at the Unilever Research Laboratory), and Japan (at the Himeji Institute of Technology). The opportunity to collaborate was another big factor in my choice to pursue science – I find the networking aspect of my role incredibly exciting.
Can you tell us a bit more about this collaboration?
Science has a great capacity for uniting people from incredibly diverse backgrounds. Although we may speak different languages, the common language of science brings us together. In this way, our field breaks a lot of barriers. This was certainly my experience when studying overseas, anyway.
I’ve also collaborated a lot in my own professorship, working in Belgium, Brazil, and Australia (where I took a sabbatical at the Australian Centre for Research in Separation Science at the University of Tasmania). It’s an eye-opening experience to work in truly international laboratories like that. In Australia, for example, I worked alongside scientists from Egypt, Iran, Israel and various countries across Europe. It’s an amazing aspect of our career and one that I encourage my students to take full advantage of. I think it’s particularly important for Americans to travel and collaborate in this way because we tend to have a very US-centric view of the world.
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