The Power List 2016
William Weightman Walker Professor of Chemistry, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, USA
Passion: I am most passionate about working with my students and collaborators to apply fundamental understanding of chemical measurements to challenging questions in analysis through establishment of thoughtful, innovative approaches. My recent entry into the field of astrobiology is particularly close to my heart; I have now come full circle, back to my childhood love of stargazing and my science fiction-inspired curiosity about the universe that led me to a career in science.
Pivotal moment: The birth of my daughter and then my son – having children both grounded and energized me. It gave me the courage to take a major risk in my career, when I gave up tenure to move to a stronger university where I could build my research program in new, exciting directions. My children are adults now, and continue to inspire me.
Prediction: Recent decades have taught us about the power, and the limitations, of technology-driven approaches that generate massive amounts of data to be applied to a problem. I expect that technology will continue to play a central role in chemical analysis, but I hope that we will develop a greater appreciation of analytical approaches that are driven by the scientific context of the problem and served, rather than driven, by technology.