Classmates of Anne Galyean, ’09, might remember her as the daredevil jumping her bike off the stairs behind D-hall. “I’d just ride my bike around campus looking for a challenge … for things to jump off of.”

For Galyean, if it’s difficult, it’s worth doing. She’s now a Seattle-based scientist at an environmental toxicology firm and has made a career out of turning challenges into opportunities.

After studying chemistry at Richmond, she earned her doctorate in aquatic nanochemistry, a degree she had to create when her program at UNC Chapel Hill didn’t have exactly what she was looking for. And when the environmental health and safety community told her she couldn’t use nanoparticles — which she researched under Professor Mike Leopold — to clean drinking water due to a lack of research on nanoparticles’ environmental impact, she made it her mission to learn more about them. 

After UNC, she moved across the country for something completely new — chemical engineering. “Because, why not?” she said. In Colorado, she fabricated nanobiosensors, a technology that could one day help monitor targets in biological systems, like blood glucose levels in diabetics.

“For example, people with diabetes could one day get a tattoo on their skin with nanobiosensors that would change color when glucose levels got too high or too low,” she said. “It could save lives.”

While working on science that could one day save lives, Galyean was risking hers. In 2009, she started racing mountain bikes and raced professionally for six years, an interest she picked up while studying in New Zealand during her junior year at UR.

Her latest challenge? She’s the head mechanic in her home garage on a 23-year-old Toyota 4Runner project, a task she’s teaching herself how to do.

“It’s got to be challenging enough to make it interesting,” she said.