Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I did something good . . . once


A long time ago, so long ago that our home computer made playing solitaire easier but had no other benefit, I took the undergrad Organic Chem series in college.



The professor was in close proximity to retirement and O Chem, what the hell lets say Chemistry in general and we might as well throw in Physics too, is typically not know for generating dynamic or gregarious individuals. 


One exception, my brother also took the series and had a teaching assistant who was awesome. He would illustrate specific molecular structure by having students stand in an arrangement similar to the atoms and then grasp hands to demonstrate bonding.


Anyway, this professor was good and made an effort to present interesting examples of real-world applications. Some of the few terms I remember 25 years later were from his class.


Nerd Alert:
Enantiomers are molecules that have the same composition but have a mirror configuration of one another. 


Thalidomide was an anti-nausea medication given to pregnant women, primarily in Europe. 


The FDA, when it was still effective, banned it in America.


One enantiomer of Thalidomide had no side effects while the other enantiomer created horrible limb birth defects. 


It appears that chemistry is a big deal and someone should know how it works. 



Nerd Alert Off:
A long story, but I ended up sitting in one of his graduate O Chem class.  Before the class started I talked to him for a minute because the class was small and it was pretty obvious I was there and didn’t belong. 


During the lecture, I was able to follow maybe a 10th and I figured that was impressive!  


He would toss out a question here and there.  To put me at ease, possibly thinking I would try to answer, he would point to me and say, “That question isn’t for you” or “You don't have to answer.”  


It occurred to me that recognition of teaching skills from an undergrad O Chem class was probably not common. So I wrote him a note in class thanking him. On the way out I slipped him the paper and headed to the door. Admittedly, I did peek back in and caught a smile.



Moral of the story? Easy thing to do and shame on me for not having a 100 more memories like that. 


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