The Power List 2020 – North America
Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California-Los Angeles, USA
Reason for pursuing analytical science: I was always (and still am) a huge fan of Star Trek’s Spock. I loved his analytical thinking, and the concept of his tricorder captured my imagination. I later became a fan of a TV show called Quincy, M.E. that depicted the lives of criminalists, lab techs and medical examiners to solve crimes. Using analytical science to solve puzzles fascinated me then and still does today.
Dinner party guest: I’d love to have a long dinner with chefs Julia Child and Jacques Pépin. The food and wine would be spectacular, and talking about their careers would be equally engaging.
Time travel destination: I’d like to pick two times. The first is 1959 – the year I was born, and also the year that my PhD mentor Fred McLafferty published his seminal paper “Mass Spectrometric Analysis: Molecular Rearrangements.” This is now known as the “McLafferty Rearrangement,” and allows confident structure predictions from unknown molecule’s fragmentation spectra. My second destination would be 2030 (close to my likely retirement). I’d like to tell students how the pandemic caused the world to “stand still” and forced us to adapt. But, most of all, I’d tell them we endured it and are stronger as a result.
Advice to younger self: Nothing in this life is totally predictable. People will give you all kinds of advice. Be true to your gut instincts and your interests. It will work out, and life will be fun!