Entering his 17th year with Texas Woman’s University, Dr. Richard Sheardy is to be recognized at Texas Woman’s University’s Celebration of Science on Oct. 19-20.
The Ann Stuart & Ray R. Poliakoff Celebration of Science Series began in 2012 when former chancellor and university president Ann Stuart donated $200,000 to establish the 20-year program centered around biology, chemistry and physics.
“We organized it as inviting women scientists,” Sheardy said. “We usually would have three speakers come in from around the country, doing work at the interface of chemistry and biochemistry […] We would always have a forum where they would sit with students and talk about their journeys and some of the trials and tribulations they went through as a woman scientist to get to where they are today. And every story was different. And every story was remarkable.”
In advance of Sheardy’s retirement next year, the 2023 Celebration of Science will recognize him and his students.
“I’ve mentored some really fantastic students here, who have gone on to do fantastic things,” Sheardy said. “And in my talk at the Celebration of Science, I’m really going to focus on the work that some of my women scientist students have done.”
Sheardy, associate director of the School of the Sciences, teaches first-year chemistry for chemistry and biochemistry students, as well as chemistry labs for non-chemistry majors. Following the loss of a loved one to cancer, Sheardy said he entered the field to study the molecular basis of cancer with a focus on DNA. He came to TWU when the university had an opening for a science department chair. Prior to this, Sheardy was a department chair at Seton Hall University and mentored 16 Ph.D. students and several graduate and undergraduate students in his time there.
“I still want to do science and I’m still going to be involved in science education,” Sheardy said. “We’ve done a lot here about social responsibility as a chemist – being civically engaged, you know, being a good citizen along with being a good chemist. I want to continue on with that part of the work, and then maybe do some traveling.”
Social responsibility is important to chemists because of the environmental damage chemistry causes, Sheardy said.
“We are socially responsible for the stewardship of the planet as chemists,” Sheardy said. “I mean, that’s part of our charge. So, you know, using safer solvents, generating less waste, using renewable feedstock. So these are all different principles of green chemistry […] And TWU was the hundredth institution to sign the Green Chemistry Commitment, which is a pledge that we’re going to continue in our efforts to be environmentally responsible. In a way, that’s also civic engagement, because what we’re doing may have an impact on the people around us, right? And so we have to be aware of the consequences of the things that we do.”
A key moment in Sheardy’s time at TWU, he said, was his involvement in Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER), the group that helped him and the department learn about civic engagement and social responsibility.
“It was really a chemistry education reform kind of movement about how getting students involved in there, and getting them civically involved, actually improved learning,” Sheardy said. “Getting involved in SENCER, I mean, that really put TWU on the map as far as science education was concerned, because now […] we are a SENCER center for innovation here, and we’re still pretty active in that regard.”
Sheardy said that his retirement will be a bittersweet moment.
“I’ve been doing this for a very long time,” Sheardy said. “I’m retiring from TWU. I’m not retiring from science and science education, as long as I can […] My time at TWU has been magical.”
Featured Photo by Jocelyn Truong
Jocelyn Truong can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.