Emily Monosson ’83 majored in biology at Union before earning an M.S. and Ph.D. from Cornell University, both in biochemical toxicology. Having spent much of her career as an independent toxicologist, she’s transitioned now to writing. Her books include Motherhood, the Elephant in Laboratory: Women Scientists Speak Out; Natural Defense: Enlisting Bugs and Germs to Protect Our Food and Health; Unnatural Selection: How We Are Changing Life, Gene by Gene; and Evolution in a Toxic World: How Life Responds to Chemical Threats. Emily is also involved with a community-focused payment system called Common Good and a Drawdown group focused on responses to climate change in her area. Over the past few years, she’s been hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail with a friend.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
Most challenging: I think in my career it would be keeping going without much external, or sometimes any, kind of validation. It was hard to do science outside of the system, particularly the academic system. I would love to see this change; and I think that it is. Most rewarding: A finished product. Progress.
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
My parents in different ways. My husband and my kids. My friends. There are lots of others, too, like scientist/writer Rachel Carson.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
Keep moving both physically and mentally. If you are feeling stuck, don’t be afraid to try a new direction. That said, be patient. It also helps to seek out community – we tend sometimes to think we are the only one in a particular situation or facing a particular problem. There are very likely others dealing with a similar situation and their support can be helpful. Finally, keep in touch with friends and mentors.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
There wasn’t any single experience. 1) Making friends that have lasted. Because those four years were such a growth period in many ways, the women with whom I shared all those experiences are still important years later. 2) My experience as a biology student. The faculty were so accessible (my senior adviser in particular, Barb Boyer) and it was all great preparation for grad school. 3) I would also have to add the ‘Skeller since, when I think back, many of my memories take me there. It was such a comfortable place for us back then.