February 2011

An interview with Paul Adams

ASBMB: What was the last book you read?
Adams: "Black Apollo of Science: The Life of Ernest Everett Just" by Kenneth R. Manning.

ASBMB: Do you have any heroes, heroines, or role models? If so, describe how they have influenced you?
Adams: I have quite a few heroes, heroines, and role models. Considering the resources and the opportunities in science we have today, when I hear people complain about what they don’t have to work with, and they need this and that, I almost immediately think of Percy Julian, who was able to do amazing chemistry for many years, often times with a fraction of what his counterparts of his time had, and at times, dealing with threats to him and his family. This is a person I consider a hero. My Ph.D. advisor Mary Barkley professionally has helped me to see what I can do as a scientist, and has always provided encouragement, and I consider her a heroine. However, my mother, Carol S. Adams (deceased) has always been, and is still my greatest heroine. She sacrificed a lot of her life to make sure me and my brothers had what we needed when we needed to help us grow up to be men. Professionally, I consider, along with I am sure many others, Isaiah Warner, as a role model. When we have the opportunity to speak, he always provides new perspective in where he views his career as a scientist, and I find this inspiring. I can recall a moment in the fall of 2008.  He picked me up at the airport in Baton Rouge when I was invited to present a seminar lecture at the chemistry department at LSU. On the highway we were talking about our work, and he said that he was excited about some recent experiments being performed in his lab. Now here is a guy who has been a researcher for quite a while, and to hear the excitement in his voice like it was his first experiment from the lab was just inspirational to me. However, as is the case with my mother being my greatest heroine, my father, Paul I. Adams, has been my greatest role model. His work ethic, dedication to his family, and his drive to do his best he can even now even after he has been in his profession for over 40 years, is something I try on a daily basis to model myself after.

ASBMB: What is it that keeps you working hard and studying science every day?
Adams: It is the most exciting thing to take several pieces of data that I have, and as I go through the analysis and I start to try and make the story for the work, I begin to immediately think to myself, “Okay, let’s look at the literature and see what experiments should be considered the logical next steps to continue to push forward.” This keeps me motivated to keep going, particularly when I am writing something and it is not coming like I think it should during some stretches. The thought of the next experiments I want to try is very motivating for me. In addition, I want to be a good scientist. I want my work to be respected just like any principal investigator. I want my research to continue to grow, and the only way I know how to see that this happens is to keep working hard continuously. Everyday when I get up, I think of the following words from hip-hop artist Mike Jones, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat, if you don’t grind, you don’t shine…no if’s ,and’s or but’s…bottom line….” This is all the motivation I need.

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