Evelyn E. Watson’s path to becoming program manager and then program director of Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ (ORAU) Radiation Internal Dose Information Center (RIDIC) began rather unconventionally.
She earned her B.A. in English from the University of Kentucky in 1949, and after a career in education, she joined ORAU in 1959 as a record clerk in purchasing—a far cry from the highly technical position she would retire from in January 1994 after 35 years with the organization.
During her ORAU career, Watson worked as research associate and laboratory technician in the Radiation Safety Office, educating herself on radiation biology by reading every book she could find on the subject. She also had an excellent mentor in her supervisor, Roger Cloutier, who provided her with constant encouragement as well as knowledge while building the dose assessment program that later became RIDIC.
She once described Cloutier as a good teacher who would answer any question, but she said, “I did a lot of it myself just because I didn’t want him to know I didn't know how.” In 1974, Watson was rewarded for her efforts with the position of RIDIC program manager, succeeding Cloutier. She became RIDIC’s program director in 1988.
As director, Watson managed a staff dedicated to improving internal radiation dosimetry and ensuring the accessibility of information about radiation dose from radionuclides incorporated in the body. As research with monoclonal antibodies for therapy increased, a greater need existed for more accurate radiation dose estimates, and the short-range emissions of the beta emitters used for therapy required new approaches to the expression of radiation.
Watson was no stranger to recognition for her achievements. She was the first recipient of the East Tennessee Chapter of the Association for Women in Science’s newly created Lifetime Scientific Achievement Award. Earlier, she received the Special Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer in 1985 from the Federal Laboratory Commission and a Distinguished Service award in 1981 from the East Tennessee Chapter of the Health Physics Society.
In addition to her English degree, Watson received her A.A. in English and chemistry from Cumberland College. She also attended Lincoln Memorial University and did postgraduate work at the University of Tennessee. Watson was a member of several professional associations, including the Health Physics Society, the Association for Women in Science, and the Society of Nuclear Medicine.