April 20-26 is Laboratory Professionals Week! This year APHL is focusing on environmental health and the laboratorians who work to detect the presence of contaminants in both people and in the environment. This post is part of a series.
By Laurie Peterson-Wright, Chemistry Program Manager, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Who would have known that the 1973 fifth grade class of Beadle Elementary in Yankton, South Dakota could predict the future? As a classroom exercise, we all had to vote on what we would each be when we grew up. I received 10 votes to become an actress, 10 votes to become a scientist and even one vote to be the first woman president!
My parents were adamant that I finish every project, class, book, craft or book I started. This instilled within me a commitment to never quit and a sense of wonderment at where the next bit of knowledge and hard work would take me. My passion for any type of science began at a young age. I would stay glued to my microscope or my telescope at night. I wanted to learn everything about how humans and the universe operated. I had so many educational ambitions – teaching, mathematician, certified public accountant, physicist, medical doctor, astronaut (and let us not forget Hollywood Star) – but after many years in school, I reeled my focus in to chemistry, mathematics and business administration.
My first position was in cancer research, but I was shortly introduced to environmental chemistry and project management. I was intrigued by how chemical and radiological pollutants interacted with the environment and what we could do to mitigate exposure, especially for sensitive populations. I spent 15 years in the environmental remediation/waste management field and then accepted a position with the State of Colorado Chemistry Program in 2001. Immediately I embraced public health and how these same contaminants in the environment could be so easily transported. I was fascinated by how they interacted with the human body including sensitive human and animal endocrine systems.
This world is an amazing place! By continuing to focus on my passion in public health, I will only increase my knowledge of how all sensitive systems are interconnected. Live gently, and also boldly, my fellow scientists.
Oh, and by the way….I still act…and PS don’t tell my parents I never finished Moby Dick.