Professor Spotlight: Alison Holliday

Dr. Alison Holliday is an associate professor of chemistry at Moravian. She earned her B.Sc. and Ph.D. at Queen’s University, in Ontario, Canada.

What inspired you to go into your field of study?

I had a wonderful high school chemistry teacher, who also happened to be an analytical chemist. He made learning about chemistry exciting and fun.

What research are you currently working on?

My research focuses on separating chemicals and quantifying them using a variety of instruments. Right now, I’m using a technique called capillary electrophoresis to separate chemicals by their size (larger things move more slowly) and their charge (chemicals with more charge move faster). My main project looks at how a protein interacts with other proteins as it folds into its ultimate shape.

What do you think is the most recent important development in your field of study?

Analytical chemists can become obsessed with being able to detect lower and lower concentrations of chemicals. Although I think there are downsides to this — mainly that it induces panic about things that aren’t actually important — detection of single molecules in large volumes of sample is groundbreaking.

What job would you have if you couldn’t be a professor, regardless of salary and job outcome? Why?

I would have been a high school teacher. I love to teach!

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were in college?

The professors don’t know everything, and they also have to work hard to understand new concepts and learn new fields.

What is your biggest student pet peeve?

Students who don’t try. Frustration is normal when learning new things, but giving up guarantees that you won’t make progress.

What was the last streaming show that you binge-watched or the last good book that you read?

I love procedurals, but my all-time favorite show is probably “The West Wing.” I am always on the look-out for new books by Kate Atkinson; the most recent one is called “Transcription.”

What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know?

I’ve played ice hockey since I was very young. Unfortunately, my spring league team is currently on a losing streak.

What’s your spirit animal and why?

A flying squirrel. Why is a long story, but it comes down to being a bit stubborn and wanting to be sure about things.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?

I love to teach any class where students are engaged and asking questions. In my environmental chemistry and instrumental analysis classes, students get to see how chemistry impacts choices and everyday life, and seeing students make those connections is wonderful.