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Allison A. Aldridge

  • Born: October 11, 1961, Ottawa, Kansas

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0670
Interview Dates: August 25, 2004 and August 23, 2009
Locations: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Atlanta, Pennsylvania
Interviewer: Jeannette E. Brown
No. of pages: 54
Minutes: 123

  Abstract of Interview

Allison A. Aldridge calls Ottawa, Kansas, her home town.  Her father was in the Air Force, her mother worked in industry; and she has three brothers.  When she was young, Aldridge wanted to be a veterinarian, but dealing with dead animals in college changed her mind.  She attended the University of Illinois as an undergraduate, majoring in biology and taking many courses in chemistry.  She then began a job in quality assurance at Hercules Aerospace, Inc.  A friend there encouraged her to seek an advanced degree, and she began to take classes to meet the requirements for graduate school.  She was accepted into the PhD program in chemistry at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois, where she wrote a two-part thesis with two advisors. 

Degree in hand, Aldridge accepted a senior scientist job at Unilever, where she stayed for about three years.  From there she went to Abbott Laboratories, working in late-stage analysis, then in the more interesting early-stage.  At Abbott she joined two affinity groups, which trained, mentored, and supported their members.  From Abbott Aldridge moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to Mikart, Inc.  Besides Georgia's climate (especially after Chicago's), one of Mikart's attractions was that it had five of the first ten ultra high performance liquid chromatography systems; “small pharma” was also attractive to Aldridge.

The second part of Dr. Aldridge's interview takes place about five years after the first.  In it she recounts her career since the first interview.  She moved from Mikart to Revogenex, Inc., in Winder, Georgia, as Manager of Analytical Services, and then became Director of Analytical Services at Speed Laboratory, Inc.  Dr. Aldridge was also Chair of the Committee on Minority Affairs at the American Chemical Society.

At the end of the interview, Aldridge advises young would-be chemists to have a passion for the science; to work hard; to develop themselves; always to question things; and to build networks as they go along.  For herself she contemplates perhaps returning to academia, as she misses the joy of teaching.

  Education

1983 B.S. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1998 Ph.D., Analytical Chemistry, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois

  Professional Experience

Hercules Aerospace, Inc.

1984 - 1993

Senior Environmental Technician; QA Technician

Unilever HPC USA, Rolling Meadows, Illinois

1997 - 2000

Senior R&D Scientist

Abbott Laboratories, North Chicago, Illinois

2000 - 2005

Associate Research Investigator; Senior Research & Development Scientist

Mikart, Inc. Atlanta, Georgia

2005 - 2009

R&D Analytical Manager; R&D Analytical Supervisor; Senior Scientist

Revogenex, Inc., Winder, GA

2009

Manager of Analytical Services

Speed Laboratory, Inc.

2009 - 2011

Director of Analytical Services

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

2011 - present

Interdisciplinary Scientist-Chemist

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early Years and College 1

Family.  Childhood in Kansas.  School.  Early desire to be veterinarian.  Determined character.  Chooses University of Illinois.  Majors in biology but takes a lot of chemistry.  Dislikes dead animals so gives up idea of veterinary school.

First Job and Graduate School Years 6

Accepts job at Hercules Aerospace, Inc., an explosives company.  Works in quality assurance.  Encouraged by fellow employee to consider advanced degree.  Studies mass spectrometry and analytical chemistry in spare time.  Accepted into PhD program at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois.  Black woman chairman of department an inspiration.  Writes two-part thesis under two advisors:  nuclear magnetic resonance of biological buffer; and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization of proteins and amino acids.  Calls self “hard-headed” in determination to succeed.

New Opportunities 23

Finds new job in Chemical and Engineering News:  Senior Research and Development Scientist at Unilever HPC (formerly Helene Curtis).  Moves to Abbott Laboratories as R&D Scientist.  Late-stage analysis at first; then early-stage.  Affinity groups:  Black Business Network and Women Leadership Action.  Moves to Mikart, Inc., in Atlanta, Georgia; moves up to R&D Analytical Manager. 

Final Thoughts 41

Revogenex, Inc., as Manager of Analytical Services.  Speed Laboratory, Inc., as Director of Analytical Services.  Advice for would-be chemists.  Chairman, Committee on Minority Affairs at American Chemical Society.  Future career possibilities.

Index 47

  About the Interviewers

Jeannette E. Brown

Jeannette E. Brown has a research MS degree from the University of Minnesota and a BS degree in the Field of Chemistry from Hunter College. She started her industrial career at CIBA 
Pharmaceutical Co. as a junior chemist, working there for eleven years, and she held the position of Research Chemist at Merck & Co. Inc. for twenty-five years. Brown is a former Faculty Associate in the department of Pre-College Programs at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, holding the title of New Jersey Statewide Systemic Initiative (NJSSI) Regional Director. She was appointed to the National Science Foundation Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women Minorities and Persons with Disabilities (CEOSE) and served on that committee for six years. She is the 2005 recipient of the American Chemical Society Dreyfus Award for mentoring minorities in science and she is currently working on a book about the history of African-American women chemists.

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