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5 Things About Me: Chemist Vanessa Castleberry

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Adjunct Professor Vanessa Castleberry designed and built a working particle accelerator during her Ph.D years at Baylor University. (Photo: Vanessa Castleberry)

Vanessa Castleberry
Adjunct Professor of Chemistry
Mclennan Community College, Waco, Texas

Background: I recently completed my Ph.D in physical chemistry at Baylor University and I am now teaching a course in freshman chemistry at Mclennan Community College.

Question 1: Why did you become a researcher?
Answer: A summer undergraduate opportunity to work and learn in a clinical cancer laboratory facility drew me into the heretofore mysterious world of research. Strange, that until I completed my Ph.D work, I never thought I would do research on the fundamental level. I loved it and would relish the opportunity to conduct more research or be part of a team of researchers...ah, someday, maybe.

Question 2: What are you most proud of in your work?
Answer: I designed and built a working particle accelerator that now resides in a custom time-of-flight mass spectrometer in my Ph.D lab. Can you tell I am a recent graduate?!?

Question 3: Share a comment or opinion you have on a topical science-related issue.
Answer: I am interested in alternative energy sources, but I have always hated the "no-emission\ label hung on some of the new cars, and what not. Their emissions are just produced elsewhere. You cannot violate the laws of thermodynamics. I think we need to recognize that there is an expense or a trade-off for everything we do. In theory, we will all have to make sacrifices to create an "expense" balance, if you will. I know from my own habits that these sacrifices won't be easy.

Question 4: Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.  
Answer: I raise orchids in a home-made greenhouse. It's a peaceful and challenging hobby. Many a morning, I would linger in the greenhouse before heading in to the lab. I kept photos of my plants nearby, so that when I was data processing or, more likely, troubleshooting some frustrating aspect of the instrument we built, I would be reminded that there is more to life than just this.

Question 5: What's your favorite food? Got a sweet tooth? Caffeine junkie?
Answer: A local Thai restaurant has the best coconut ice cream. I like GOOD coffee, no over-roasted or pre-ground stuff. I watched, in horror, one morning as my advisor took yesterday's coffee out of the pot and microwaved it!! Heresy!

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Adjunct Professor Vanessa Castleberry designed and built a working particle accelerator during her Ph.D years at Baylor University. (Photo: Vanessa Castleberry)
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