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Meet a Scientist: Dr. Linda Peteanu
Jan 16

Meet a Scientist: Dr. Linda Peteanu

By Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas, Research and Science Education Outreach Manager

All of the researchers featured on Phipps' Meet a Scientist Saturdays have been trained through our science communication workshops. If you are graduate student, faculty, or professional in any field of STEM and you are interested in the workshop or participating in a Meet a Scientist Saturday, check out our website or contact Phipps’ Science Education Outreach Manager Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas.

If the weather this weekend is looking dull and gray, come learn about the power of lights and lasers with local scientist Dr. Linda Peteanu, Professor and Department Head of the Chemistry Department at Carnegie Mellon University! Stop by her table in the Tropical Forest Cuba and learn about the different ways her lab uses light to answer questions in fields ranging from biology to technology. Dr. Peteanu will be in the Tropical Forest from 1:30-3:30 pm this Saturday, January 19.

Introduce yourself in 5 sentences or less

I am a Professor of Chemistry and the Department Head at Carnegie Mellon University.  I run a group of young scientists who study diverse problems ranging from materials to produce energy efficient lighting to the properties of our genetic material (DNA/RNA) that codes for proteins in our bodies.  My work uses optics, lasers and microscopes to look at individual molecules, one by one. 

What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done at work?

I actually find it exciting to graduate a new B. A. or Ph. D. and have that person get the job of their dreams. 

Why did you become a scientist?

I have always been very curious and interested in experimentation.  I love being part of a wider community of scientists.

What skills do you use in your job?

Part of my job is administrative so I am learning skills in motivating others, management, negotiation, and sales that I need for interacting with faculty, my students, other administrators, and the student body at large.  Written and oral communication skills are very important in this context as well as in my scientific scholarship.  My fundamental science skills, which are the design of experiments and of equipment, are used constantly as well.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I actually like to do experiments myself when I can.  Otherwise, I love working with students in designing their experiments and troubleshooting them.  Organizing and supporting faculty in their pursuits can also be very rewarding. 

If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be?

I actually contemplated a major in economics and a career in consulting.  There is probably an aspect of that in my current job.  Car mechanic also sounded very attractive as I really love machinery!

Why is science education important?

I know that a relatively small number of people will seek a job directly in one of the scientific disciplines.  However, science and technology is changing the way all of us work and this will happen with increasing speed.  The fundamental knowledge that enables people to keep up with these trends will help them to grow with the demands of their chosen field.  Science and technology can bring fantastic improvements to our quality of life but sometimes at significant cost.  An educated voting citizenry is important to help make the best decisions to balance cost and benefit.  Ultimately, however, I am also hoping that people can be inspired and awed by the sheer beauty of science and of our natural world.