Paul Lessard, PhD - Graniterock Scientist
Posted by Rose Ann Woolpert on Mar 18, 2015
Few who know Graniterock’s Dr. Paul Lessard would imagine that he faced learning challenges in childhood. “I had to repeat third grade because I was unable to read,” recalls Paul, and “I never really felt ‘smart’ during grammar or high school.” It wasn’t until after he graduated from Palma High School in Salinas and entered UC Davis that Paul realized, “Getting good grades was mostly a matter of working very hard.” He suddenly found himself getting A’s in all his classes. “I did an internship in physical chemistry and got to play with lasers and a lot of complicated electronics to measure chemical reactions. I was hooked. I graduated with an Environmental Toxicology major, and ended up completing my PhD in Physical Chemistry.”
It was the eighties, and with a newly heightened national awareness and concern for environmental health hazards, Paul’s expertise as an environmental scientist was in high demand. His specialization in toxicology and human health risk assessment was needed at EPA Superfund cleanup sites and other high profile jobs throughout the US.
When the state of California decided to require companies like Graniterock to conduct dust emission risk analysis, Paul came to the Company as an environmental consultant, tasked with air quality studies at A.R. Wilson Quarry. Paul recalls many meetings with Graniterock president Bruce W. Woolpert. “Bruce wanted to know if there was any threat to the folks out at the quarry. He told me to do whatever it took to find out whether there was a problem.” After an exhaustive scientific review, Paul ultimately reported there was no issue of concern at the quarry. Paul and Bruce stayed in touch, and seventeen years ago, when he was ready to make a career change, Paul joined Graniterock’s Environmental Services team.
Paul eventually landed in the Research and Technical Services (RTS) department, where in his position as Senior Applied Scientist, he uses his knowledge of physical chemistry to look for solutions to complex problems. For example, he searches for new and innovative uses for quarry fines, which are a byproduct of rock production, such as topsoil formulas, water repellency, and concrete admixtures. A sampling of other current projects includes research on new plate and frame technology for fines moisture reduction, exploration of treatments to reduce steel corrosion, recycled concrete reclamation, energy assessments, and daily chemical analysis of glass sand produced at our Quail Hollow Quarry in Felton.
In Europe more than ten years ago, while researching potential uses for quarry fines, Paul made an unexpected and life-changing discovery. One free weekend, he met a beautiful young woman from East Germany. Jana spoke little English, and Paul knew no German, but they fell in love and began a long distance romance. They soon married, and now Paul, Jana and their son Noah live together in Aptos, enjoying life next to the Monterey Bay.
Five years ago, Paul fulfilled a lifelong dream and earned his helicopter pilot’s license. “It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done,” says Paul, “Right behind running a marathon and getting my PhD.” Paul enjoys other relaxing pastimes such as flying airplanes, building computers, biking, and SCUBA diving. Also, along the way, he learned to speak German.
Overcoming early learning differences, discovering the key to academic success, earning an advanced degree in science and finding new ways to continuously improve in work and in life – any one of Paul Lessard’s accomplishments is truly admirable. Together, they are an inspiration, and a model to follow for setting and achieving high-reaching goals in life.
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