Theresa Reineke

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Theresa Reineke

When did you first know that you wanted to be a scientist or engineer?

I have always, from first memory, wanted to be a scientist or engineer. When I was very young, I was fascinated by nature and understanding the details of biology, physics, astronomy, and chemistry.  I am a first generation college student, so my decision to pursue a focus in science was strongly encouraged by many excellent mentors throughout my life. My decision to focus on chemistry as an undergraduate was heavily influenced by having outstanding chemistry teachers in high school, where they offered 2 full years of chemistry.  Also, those teachers were part of the track and field coaching staff in my high school; having my teachers/mentors “cheer me on” inside AND outside of the classroom was instrumental in my decision to be a scientist. In college I also had excellent undergraduate professors and research experiences that opened my eyes to the possibilities of getting a PhD.


What is your happiest moment in science or engineering so far?

The happiest moments of my career involve working with my students and postdocs and being a part of their scientific discovery process. Also, when they graduate from the lab and move onto excellent professional positions – it is incredible to look back at their scientific development – I am so proud of them all.


Would you ever leave science or engineering? Why?

Honestly, there have been difficult moments when this question has crossed my mind, however, the answer is no.  Mentoring our future generation of scientists and engineers, fostering their development as professional people, and instilling the importance of scientific discovery while maintaining good professional relationships are all very important to me in my position as a professor.


What was the most challenging experience you ever had as a scientist or engineer?

Encountering personally and observing others deal with explicit and implicit bias continues to be a great challenge.  In addition, trying to balance being an excellent researcher, teacher, mentor, journal editor, wife, and mother to my two children continues to be challenging.  However, I am very fortunate to be in a leadership position to mentor our next generation to inspire positive attitudes towards equity, diversity, and work-life balance in science and engineering.


Knowing what you do now know, would you be a scientist or engineer again? Why?

Yes.  Being a part of and leading a research team that continues to discover novel materials and formulations to help human health will always be part of my life mission.