By Marguerite Huber
I have always envisioned myself working at EPA—out saving the planet. As a current intern, getting to interview those who actually do is particularly exciting to me.
Enter Ann Richard, an EPA computational chemist.
To get where she is today, Ann followed her talents in math and science to a PhD in physical chemistry. Before her post doc and EPA, she had stints working at an airport, and even an amusement park. But now, “I appreciate working for an agency that has the component of benefiting the public,” stated Ann while speaking of the EPA. She has been working here since 1987 (which is hard for me to imagine since that is longer than I have even been alive).
Today, Ann works in an area termed “chem-informatics,” a cross between chemistry and computer science that focuses the construction and use of chemical databases to address problems crossing the disciplines of chemistry, biology, and toxicology. Her greatest achievement has been the Distributed Structure-Searchable Toxicity (DSSTox) Public Database Network, sharing important information about chemicals with the public. It has been used by government, academia, and scientists worldwide. Furthermore, Ann manages the chemical informatics component of the ToxCast and Tox21 projects, which provide a foundation for improved toxico-chemoinformatics and structure-activity relationship capabilities in predictive toxicology.
In her career, Ann devotes a large effort to communicating across different disciplines. “You have to put yourself in the audience’s place and it is not easy, you have to work at it,” she said. In the end she finds it rewarding and worthwhile to try to bridge disciplines, even if she has to spend half a day on creating one perfect PowerPoint slide.
Her favorite part of her job is meeting amazing people from different countries. Ann has the opportunity to become acquainted with many talented people within her field worldwide. She derives a lot of satisfaction from knowing she has reached the point where she has gained the respect of her peers in her field.
Ann’s inspiration comes from ordinary people who do extraordinary things. While growing up, she never remembered being discouraged about being in the science field. If she was, it only made her more determined to succeed. “Don’t be intimidated,” are her wise words towards girls everywhere. In that case, I am going to pretend that toxico-chemoinformatics does not sound so intimidating!
About the author: Marguerite Huber is an intern from Indiana University currently working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.