If you have passion then spread the love

27 Dec

I am a chemist.  I’ve been one since I had my first chemistry kit and mixed acids and salts and watched the results. Cool!

I didn’t know what science was until I was introduced to it in primary school by a visiting student teacher who took it upon himself to do science with us. He taught us the physics of lenses, the basis of photosynthesis, about the density of materials and the beauty resulting from performing paper chromatography with inks. The spark of interest was lit within me by that young man over 40 years ago. His passion was contagious…for me.

My mother used to provide bed and breakfast and once upon a time, for whatever reason, we had a metallurgist staying with us. I used to quiz him with questions and bugged him enough about what he did that one day he asked me whether I would like to visit his lab. At that age (9 yrs old I think) I imagined a Frankenstein lab, Tesla coils, large flasks of colored solutions…ah the imagination of youth. With the permission of my mother, and I have to assume his employer, he took me to his lab one evening and walked me through testing for ductility, corrosiveness and deposition coatings. I got to push buttons, watch metal snap and dissolve metals in liquids. No Tesla coils, no monsters but pure joy in being at play with the mysteries of science…demonstrated to me through the hands of someone who deeply understood and made it fun.

I have, of course, had many teachers over the years and the ones I remember, the ones who remain dear to my heart, are those with a passion for what they taught. These are the teachers who are willing to work after school to teach you more than the syllabus demands, those that have lunchtime clubs for us “geeks”, those that organize trips that immerse you further in what interests them and those that use their own passion to affect a child, stimulate a pupil and hopefully pay it forward with their inherited passions. I am fortunate that I have had a number of teachers who were willing to help me geek out…I wish there were more!!!

What I personally lack in teaching skills I hope I make up for in passion, in drive and a real want to evoke an emotional response in those I talk with about chemistry. I was trained as an NMR spectroscopist, became a cheminformatician and then moved into hosting chemistry data for the masses through the ChemSpider database. But I am proud to call myself ChemConnector! Whether I’m doing exploding Coke demos at our twins school, playing with Neodymium magnets with anyone who cares to handle them, educating the community about “inappropriate movie stars” versus scientists, or pushing for changes in the quality of online chemistry data, I hope that my passion comes through and just once in a while I create a convert to get interested and get active in science. If YOU have passion..then spread the love.

This blog post is part of the Vittana “Make a Difference” blogger challenge.

The contest invites bloggers from around the world to discuss various ways to make a difference in the world, as well as share stories on who or what has made a difference in their lives.

The winning blog post will be the post that drives the most loans to students in need. Please support this cause (and this blog!) by making a loan in my name: “Antony Williams.” Be sure to type that in when you reach the checkout page (example screenshot) The more loans you make the more educations get funded and the more recognition and traffic my site gets!

Please support this blog and contest by using this special link to tweet about it (You can edit the tweet before it’s posted, but make sure this link ( ) and the hashtag #vittanachallenge is part of the tweet or Vittana won’t know you tweeted about me!)



About tony

Antony (Tony) J. Williams received his BSc in 1985 from the University of Liverpool (UK) and PhD in 1988 from the University of London (UK). His PhD research interests were in studying the effects of high pressure on molecular motions within lubricant related systems using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. He moved to Ottawa, Canada to work for the National Research Council performing fundamental research on the electron paramagnetic resonance of radicals trapped in single crystals. Following his postdoctoral position he became the NMR Facility Manager for Ottawa University. Tony joined the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York as their NMR Technology Leader. He led the laboratory to develop quality control across multiple spectroscopy labs and helped establish walk-up laboratories providing NMR, LC-MS and other forms of spectroscopy to hundreds of chemists across multiple sites. This included the delivery of spectroscopic data to the desktop, automated processing and his initial interests in computer-assisted structure elucidation (CASE) systems. He also worked with a team to develop the worlds’ first web-based LIMS system, WIMS, capable of allowing chemical structure searching and spectral display. With his developing cheminformatic skills and passion for data management he left corporate America to join a small start-up company working out of Toronto, Canada. He joined ACD/Labs as their NMR Product Manager and various roles, including Chief Science Officer, during his 10 years with the company. His responsibilities included managing over 50 products at one time prior to developing a product management team, managing sales, marketing, technical support and technical services. ACD/Labs was one of Canada’s Fast 50 Tech Companies, and Forbes Fast 500 companies in 2001. His primary passions during his tenure with ACD/Labs was the continued adoption of web-based technologies and developing automated structure verification and elucidation platforms. While at ACD/Labs he suggested the possibility of developing a public resource for chemists attempting to integrate internet available chemical data. He finally pursued this vision with some close friends as a hobby project in the evenings and the result was the ChemSpider database ( Even while running out of a basement on hand built servers the website developed a large community following that eventually culminated in the acquisition of the website by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Tony joined the organization, together with some of the other ChemSpider team, and became their Vice President of Strategic Development. At RSC he continued to develop cheminformatics tools, specifically ChemSpider, and was the technical lead for the chemistry aspects of the Open PHACTS project (, a project focused on the delivery of open data, open source and open systems to support the pharmaceutical sciences. He was also the technical lead for the UK National Chemical Database Service ( and the RSC lead for the PharmaSea project ( attempting to identify novel natural products from the ocean. He left RSC in 2015 to become a Computational Chemist in the National Center of Computational Toxicology at the Environmental Protection Agency where he is bringing his skills to bear working with a team on the delivery of a new software architecture for the management and delivery of data, algorithms and visualization tools. The “Chemistry Dashboard” was released on April 1st, no fooling, at, and provides access to over 700,000 chemicals, experimental and predicted properties and a developing link network to support the environmental sciences. Tony remains passionate about computer-assisted structure elucidation and verification approaches and continues to publish in this area. He is also passionate about teaching scientists to benefit from the developing array of social networking tools for scientists and is known as the ChemConnector on the networks. Over the years he has had adjunct roles at a number of institutions and presently enjoys working with scientists at both UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University. He is widely published with over 200 papers and book chapters and was the recipient of the Jim Gray Award for eScience in 2012. In 2016 he was awarded the North Carolina ACS Distinguished Speaker Award.

Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Uncategorized


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