Classmates: Fran Nelson, Ph.D. in organic chemistry, adjunct professor, currently a volunteer teaching special needs kids to bake, happily married mom of 2

May 2023 — This month we feature our high school friend Fran Nelson, Ph.D. in organic chemistry, adjunct professor, currently a volunteer teaching special needs kids to bake, happily married mom of 2

PW Class of 1982: What do you do now for work? And what has your career path been? 

Fran: My career path has taken lots of twists and turns.  I have been fortunate to have many diverse experiences and met fascinating and inspirational people along the way. After PW, I went to Penn State and graduated with a degree in chemistry. My senior year I looked for jobs in chemistry but found those that interested me required an advanced degree.  So off I went to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and finished with a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1992. I then became a medicinal chemist at Wyeth Research, where I worked on novel immunosuppressants for patients needing organ transplants and novel anti-cancer agents.  I greatly enjoyed my time in research; it was challenging as there were very few women in science in the 90s.  I was only the third Ph.D. female chemistry hire at Wyeth then.

I left basic research when my children were in (and approaching) grade school.  The balance just became too difficult. I went into science education which allowed for a much more flexible schedule.  I taught at Villanova University and William Paterson University, but I truly found my next passion in teaching younger children.  I joined Students 2 Science (Students2Science.org), a wonderful not-for-profit with the goal of inspiring and engaging all children (targeting those in economically disadvantaged districts) in science. I developed their Virtual Lab (in pre-covid times!) to be able to deliver high-quality science education to students anywhere in the world.  This became the only source of programming when Covid hit.

In the last year, I began volunteering at Rising Above Bakery (Risingabovebakery.org) where I work with special needs young adults teaching the art and skills of baking and restaurant service.  We learn, inspire, eat, and bake together.  It is the highlight of my week!

PW Class of 1982: Are you married? Since when? 

Fran: I met my husband, Andrew Osiason, at the end of my graduate school education. We will be married for 30 years this November and have two children-Jacob (24) and Eden (21). Jacob is in financial services, and Eden will enter her final year of college at Brandeis in the fall.  Interestingly, neither child will follow their parents into science!

PW Class of 1982: What did you dream of becoming in high school?

Fran: I always had an interest in science. I started college in engineering, which I hated!  I always loved cooking and baking (maybe I should have gone to culinary school?!). But I managed to circle back to this now, working in the bakery! Baking is chemistry, after all.

PW Class of 1982: What advice would you give to your high school self?

Fran: Don’t sweat the small stuff!

PW Class of 1982: What advice do you have for others about creating your best life?

Fran: Take some risks-don’t always take the safe route. Especially when you are young, you have more time than you think when you are young-embrace it! Travel everywhere. Be bold!

PW Class of 1982: What would you like to say to all of your classmates today? 

Fran: If you are in the northern New Jersey area, look me up and say hello! Once I left PW, I never lived back in the area again.

PW Class of 1982: Fran, we are blown away by your accomplishments, and have attached your bio below so we can share your research and career path: Fran Nelson CV 2023. To connect with Fran directly, send her an email: fran.nelson1@gmail.com.