If you have passion then spread the love


I am a chemist.  I’ve been one since I had my first chemistry kit and mixed acids and salts and watched the results. Cool!

I didn’t know what science was until I was introduced to it in primary school by a visiting student teacher who took it upon himself to do science with us. He taught us the physics of lenses, the basis of photosynthesis, about the density of materials and the beauty resulting from performing paper chromatography with inks. The spark of interest was lit within me by that young man over 40 years ago. His passion was contagious…for me.

My mother used to provide bed and breakfast and once upon a time, for whatever reason, we had a metallurgist staying with us. I used to quiz him with questions and bugged him enough about what he did that one day he asked me whether I would like to visit his lab. At that age (9 yrs old I think) I imagined a Frankenstein lab, Tesla coils, large flasks of colored solutions…ah the imagination of youth. With the permission of my mother, and I have to assume his employer, he took me to his lab one evening and walked me through testing for ductility, corrosiveness and deposition coatings. I got to push buttons, watch metal snap and dissolve metals in liquids. No Tesla coils, no monsters but pure joy in being at play with the mysteries of science…demonstrated to me through the hands of someone who deeply understood and made it fun.

I have, of course, had many teachers over the years and the ones I remember, the ones who remain dear to my heart, are those with a passion for what they taught. These are the teachers who are willing to work after school to teach you more than the syllabus demands, those that have lunchtime clubs for us “geeks”, those that organize trips that immerse you further in what interests them and those that use their own passion to affect a child, stimulate a pupil and hopefully pay it forward with their inherited passions. I am fortunate that I have had a number of teachers who were willing to help me geek out…I wish there were more!!!

What I personally lack in teaching skills I hope I make up for in passion, in drive and a real want to evoke an emotional response in those I talk with about chemistry. I was trained as an NMR spectroscopist, became a cheminformatician and then moved into hosting chemistry data for the masses through the ChemSpider database. But I am proud to call myself ChemConnector! Whether I’m doing exploding Coke demos at our twins school, playing with Neodymium magnets with anyone who cares to handle them, educating the community about “inappropriate movie stars” versus scientists, or pushing for changes in the quality of online chemistry data, I hope that my passion comes through and just once in a while I create a convert to get interested and get active in science. If YOU have passion..then spread the love.

This blog post is part of the Vittana “Make a Difference” blogger challenge.

The contest invites bloggers from around the world to discuss various ways to make a difference in the world, as well as share stories on who or what has made a difference in their lives.

The winning blog post will be the post that drives the most loans to students in need. Please support this cause (and this blog!) by making a loan in my name: “Antony Williams.” Be sure to type that in when you reach the checkout page (example screenshot) The more loans you make the more educations get funded and the more recognition and traffic my site gets!

Please support this blog and contest by using this special link to tweet about it (You can edit the tweet before it’s posted, but make sure this link ( http://bitly.com/w50Lsd ) and the hashtag #vittanachallenge is part of the tweet or Vittana won’t know you tweeted about me!)

 

  1. #1 by robertslinn on December 28, 2011 - 12:11 am

    At state grammar school in 1963 for GCE O-level, we had a brilliant, dedicated and often frightening Chemistry teacher (Mr T). I quote here from some notes ‘Slinn confesses to not enjoying or doing particularly well at school, although he was successful in Chemistry, French, and Mathematics. His interest in Chemistry was stimulated by an aunt and uncle who bought him a chemistry set, which he still has in his possession. A brilliant but terrifying teacher who had a penchant for practical demonstrations, even outside the laboratory in the open classroom, would fill rooms with noxious fumes that his willing students sampled and ingested. “At age 15, we were quickly introduced in vitro to the flashes, bangs and smells which can make or break a youngster’s enthusiasm for chemistry,” Slinn recalls. “There were also practical demonstrations for Physics and Biology, but not as outstanding as those in Chemistry and, being rather squeamish, I did not relish dissecting frogs etc.”. Alas, such characters are rare on the ground nowadays.
    http://www.sciscoop.com/an-unconventionally-analytical-chemist.html

  2. #2 by Joanne Manaster (@sciencegoddess) on December 28, 2011 - 9:55 pm

    Hi Tony,
    I’m paying “blog calls” to all @scio12 attendees to say Hi and give a shoutout on twitter.

    I look forward to seeing you again in January!

  3. #3 by Sean Ekinssean on December 28, 2011 - 10:13 pm

    My early science memories were pretty young e.g. manually centrifuging grass cuttings to isolate chlorophyll, the centrifuge itself would probably be banned nowadays. But my most influential teacher was Mr. Passey who took it upon himself to dissect a pregnant shark that had been accidentally caught by a fishing boat. As a teen Seeing tiny baby sharks certainly beat any other biology class. How many other teachers went out of their way to get cool stuff for class?

  4. #4 by Jeffrey Harris on January 4, 2012 - 2:52 pm

    It has been many years between 1968 and today. The cultural differences in our children and inexplicable advances in technology almost disqualify me from making statements here.

    So I will speak strictly from my heart. I speak for those children who reside in stressful environments, have difficulty concentrating, and do not enjoy school. I speak for those children who have not been graced with a well body. I speak for those children who subsequently do not have a sense of belonging.

    At the age of 10. I was fascinated by human flight, the stars above me, the implausible way that cells formed tissues, tissues formed organs, organs form systems and systems formed sentient beings.

    With this sense of wonder, I spent hours in the library carefully studying Encyclopaedia Britannica. At the same time I found myself failing in school, constantly daydreaming and completely bored. I did not believe that I had the capacity to learn complex subject matter and therefore developed a laziness. Early on in my childhood.

    With no adult supportive culture around me and no book of life to guide me I sought to define the way of things.

    There are a handful of teachers who recognized me as being socially different, realized that I learned with an atypical style; reached out, created an environment which was nurturing and rewarded me for my accomplishments.

    In high school it was my biology teacher and my American history teacher Mr. Dravecki who created an experiential and tactile and magical learning experience. I aced these classes and felt capable.

    In college, it was my symbolic logic teacher Nicholas T Habib, who sat with me helped me to define my deficiencies in primary education; informed me of my capabilities and talents and assisted me with the slaying of my dragons. Nicholas gave me faith in myself taught me the difference between receiving gifts and earning rewards and gently nudged me along my path.

    As a young boy I had taught myself aerodynamic theory, constructed many flying objects and carried my dream of drifting with the clouds into adulthood. At the age of 32. I received my pilots license being one of only a few diabetics granted an early waiver to operate small aircraft.

    In 1993 I took the summer off to introduce children and their families to the wonders of flight in the New York, finger Lakes region.

    In 1994 I attended a graduate class in learning disabilities, hoping to gain skills that would make me a more effective educator for my patie. Nts who suffer the effects of long-term hypoxemia. My final exam was to prepare a tactile and kinesthetic exercise that would lead to a basic knowledge and understanding of flight. Using kites, paper, glue, models of flowing water and a significant amount of drama, my students understood Bernoulli’s theorem. We also had a blast!

    Many friends from my childhood years, who grew up in the same environment have now passed away; these children were brilliant too.

    My social commentary is this: I fear our society no longer believes in intellectual parity between children of different social economic strata. My evidence is the creation of expensive high-end schools and for those with economic means and supportive parents. In contrast, we have a public school system with underpaid, often burned out educators attending to the needs of our working class majority who often are noted to have disparities in access to good health care, and in certain tiers access to good parents. In this observation I fear and observe many children walking in the aisles of Walmart, mesmerized by products called Transformers, which to me are nothing but opportunities to arouse an interest in artificial intelligence and robotics.

    So I accept your challenge Tony to make a difference for those who are often left behind. I do not see this as a small commitment or lip-service to yet another rhetorical, not-for-profit, bleeding heart organization. For it is my belief that if we do not address this challenge today our species will not recognize its potential.

    We not only need to reach children but the parents, social infrastructure, politics, belief systems and personal accountability to our brothers and sisters in the beautiful planet on which we live.

    Blessings for your effort.

    Jeff

(will not be published)