#SoCaltech: Pat Anderson

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Pat Anderson, who moved to Southern California from her native Mississippi as a teenager and studied at both Pasadena City College and Citrus College, was hired as a receptionist for the Arthur Amos Noyes Laboratory of Chemical Physics shortly before it was dedicated in 1968. She held the position of “floater” for the Division of  Chemistry and Chemical Engineering for several years before settling into her present position as an administrative assistant. She was honored for her 50 years of service to the Institute at the 63rd Annual Staff Service & Impact Awards ceremony on May 31. 

“When I first started, I assisted all of the professors who did not have administrative assistants assigned to them. Each professor was performing different research, so it was quite a learning experience. Everyone used different terminology and acronyms in their research so you had to figure out what it all meant—but eventually you became familiar with the scientific language. We were expected to do everything. I was given a drawing board, Rapidograph pens, vellum paper, electric eraser, templates, rulers, dry transfers—all the drafting tools to do chemical drawings for proposals, class handouts, correspondence and manuscripts. Deadlines were a constant in those days—nothing has really changed in that regard, only better equipment. The manuscripts were submitted (with original drawings), and the actual drawings were published. A professor would sketch something out, and then I would draw it. He would look it over and make the necessary changes. All drawings were done on vellum so they could be copied and cut into the manuscripts, proposals, and class handouts. This was only a small part of what we did. I think back, and I say to myself, ‘How did I do that?’” 

 #SoCaltech is an occasional series celebrating the diverse individuals who give Caltech its spirit of excellence, ambition, and ingenuity. Know someone we should profile? Send nominations to magazine@caltech.edu.