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Chemistry alumna gives back through success, art


Alumna Elaine Heron is giving back to the Department of Chemistry from two of her life’s passions.

First, Heron’s funds are behind a generous $2 million realized professorship. She said Purdue Chemistry faculty made a difference in her tremendous career in biotech life sciences industries. Along her career path: board member of Amplyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc., an early stage drug development company where she served as chief executive officer; board member of directors of BioMarin Pharmaceutical, Inc., a public biopharmaceutical company specializing in orphan diseases; and chairwoman and chief executive officer of Labcyte, Inc., which specializes in acoustic liquid handling technology. Heron earned her bachelor’s and PhD from the analytical arm of Purdue Chemistry.

Second, Heron’s art is now part of the attractive Leighty Commons inside Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry. An accomplished photographer, Heron has traveled around the world to shoot outdoor subjects. Among her favorite scenes involve icebergs and glaciers. The ice changes daily and is a field day for photogs. There is some science in “reading” icebergs. The different waterlines and areas that have broken off are like stories for the ice formations, Heron said.

“Iceberg Lettuce” combines outdoor and studio work as she superimposed some iceberg lettuce onto an iceberg shot. The black and white composition makes the viewer do a bit of a double take. Heron said she put her PhotoShop skills to work and flexed her creative, humor muscles for the digital piece. After the shoot, the lettuce was used for wraps for dinner, she added.

The print hangs next to a plaque in Heron’s honor on the south wall of Leighty Commons. A reception was held June 20 for the art installation and to celebrate her giving back to Chemistry.

“I just think it’s something people should do if you gain something from a university,” Heron said. “That’s the way great universities continue.”

Heron and Prof. Christine Hrycyna

Chemistry alumna Elaine Heron (left) and Christine Hrycyna, Biochemistry professor and associate head for the Department of Chemistry, stand in front of Heron's photograph, "Iceberg Lettuce," in the Leighty Commons of Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry.

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