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organic chemistry

I’m not going to lie: though I’m a chemistry minor, chemistry just isn’t really my thing. I have utmost respect for chemistry as both a science and a profession; however, much to the dismay of friend and fellow blogger Carly, it just isn’t something that I absolutely love.

General chemistry was fine, but honestly, organic chemistry just never really clicked for me. I could generally get through orgo problems (except for the obnoxiously-long synthesis problems), but I just really didn’t draw a connection between orgo and the biology classes I loved so dearly.

Since biochemistry draws heavily in concepts learned in organic, I was very hesitant about taking this course. I figured that I’d best take it this semester with all of my closest friends; however, I honestly wasn’t looking forward to it. But thus far in the semester, I’ve come to really enjoy biochem. Take this afternoon, for instance. I was getting very confused by some physics I was attempting. So you know what I did? I put physics away for a little while and picked up my biochem. Though it can take me an embarrassing amount of time to finish one biochem problem, I always feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I successfully complete an assignment.

I think I like biochem because it combines all of the concepts I’ve learned thus far in my studies of biology at Fontbonne. In biochem, there are hints of biotechnology, molecular biology, cell biology, and – yes, that’s right – organic chemistry. There are definitely days when I wish I wouldn’t have to spend umpteen hours reading and taking notes and doing online quizzes and doing homework for biochemistry, but overall, I’m coming to really enjoy looking at the world from the intersection of biology and chemistry. And, much unlike last spring when organic ended, I may actually be quite sad when biochem officially ends in just about two months.

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Let’s talk about catalysis, shall we? And, before you stop reading, I’m not eluding back to the biochemistry chapter I’ve spent the past five or six hours reading and taking notes over titled “Properties of Enzymes” (because as you and I are well aware of, the most important characteristics of these little guys is that they speed up reactions that would be way too slow to be beneficial…in other words, they’re catalysts.). No, I will spare you the details and instead talk about catalysis in light of the quote that I cut out of a magazine ad my freshman year and now have hanging on the bulletin board in front of my desk in my dorm:

“What if we took the time to rethink things? Forcing ourselves to look at how things are and imagining what they could be. Not waiting for change, but being the catalyst.”

When I made the Big Change (that is, change of my major), I did so thinking I was going to become a biochemist. Seriously! After four weeks of being an Official Biology Major, however, I know now that I definitely don’t like biochemistry enough to be a biochemist (organic chem. is way better…). I thought I would enjoy learning about the chemistry of life, but honestly, I kind of really dislike it. A lot. And that really kind of worries me. A lot. So if I don’t want to be a biochemist, then, what do I want to be? This is where the above quote comes in: I may not know exactly what I plan to get my PhD in yet, but there’s one thing I do know, and that’s the fact that when I grow up, I want to be a catalyst.

As the weeks go on, I find myself drifting farther and farther away from who I was prior to the Big Change. My case in point: I’m about to read a book on GMO’s and how maybe they are in fact what the world needs. Me, the girl who praises the virtues of organic food, eats pretty much only organic food…thinking that GMO’s aren’t so big and bad as we make them sound (DISCLAIMER: I’M STILL UNSURE OF MY FEELINGS TOWARDS GENETIC MODIFICATION, AS I AM STILL LEARNING ABOUT IT.)? This may be the reason why I’m getting so upset: I’m worried that, as a scientist, that all of my beliefs and my goals are going to come crashing down. I’m so passionate about organic agriculture, and if there’s one thing that really gets me upset, it’s not GMO’s, but rather, the use of toxic pesticides. But there are so many critics of organic! How can I pursue a career in something that many people believe is not feasible on a large scale? Another thing that gets me upset: chemicals in processed foods and cosmetics and tons of other things we don’t think twice about! How can I prove to people that maybe we should be worried about these things? Can I do it? And if I can, what degree will give me the credentials to best stand up for what I believe in and prove that there is a science behind it?

…Or, as I’ve been spending sleepless nights wondering, will I simply be doomed to a career doing something that totally goes against what I believe in for the sake of getting a job? For the sake of having something secure? I can’t let that happen!

I’m going to finish this blog post with another quote, courtesy of Steve Jobs (he has some of the best quotes, I’m telling you!). I think he described an effective catalyst the best: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Here’s to having the courage to be a catalyst, no matter how much activation energy the reaction might take.

-Carly

“Sleeping Lessons” by The Shins

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Wow.  I’m exactly halfway through my time at Fontbonne.  I just finished my last final this morning, and I was out the door by 10:05.  It will take me a while to realize that I’m actually on summer break, but I’m happy for my newfound freedom.

This year was definitely far more challenging than last year.  Last year, I took a lot of challenging courses – don’t get me wrong – but they were more generalized and foundational.  This year, in addition to some sophomore-, junior-, and (I’m not going to lie) senior-level biology courses, I took on the so-called biology major’s “worst nightmare” – organic chemistry.  It was definitely difficult, but it was so worth it at the same time.  I got really close to my friends in part thanks to that class, and getting through it alive has pretty much taught me that I can get through anything if I keep at it.

So what will I be doing this summer?  Well, to put it bluntly, a lot.  I will be interning at the St. Louis Science Center in the Physical Sciences Gallery.  While there, I will be presenting Amazing Science Demonstrations, which are 10-15 minute shows about different aspects of science.  This will be the perfect marriage of my two main passions in life - science and theatre!  In addition, I’ll be taking family vacations to Florida and Minnesota, and I’ll be taking a philosophy course for general education requirements.  Add in Saturday nights at The Muny and various trips to Forest Park, and there’s my summer in a nutshell.

Have a great, safe summer everyone, and I’ll see most of you again in the fall.

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Last night in orgo lab while vacuum filtering our recrystallized products, I asked Carly if she wanted to play a game.  It had been featured on “The Big Bang Theory.”  Essentially, one person says the name of an element; for example, let’s say “magnesium.”  Then, the next person has to say an element that begins with the last letter of the first element.  So going along with the first example, you could say something like “mercury” or “manganese.”  The game continues until you run out of elements with the correct letters or until you or your opponent can’t think of an element.  Carly and I got into a pretty good competition, and this, along with the fact that we are both going to study our periodic tables before Round 2 during next week’s lab, pretty much proved that I am a nerd.

Even so, I absolutely love being a biology major.  We are given so many great opportunities.  Last week, you may have seen my blog about the First Annual Intercollegiate Science Poster Day that Fontbonne hosted.  The day was great.  Students, faculty, and friends came to the third floor of AB Hall to view research posters from four Fontbonne students alongside students from Maryville and Lindenwood.  All in all, it was a great experience.  I really enjoyed sharing the research that I’ve been doing, and it was great to be able to see what students from other nearby universities are working on.

I’m also very excited about this coming Sunday and Monday.  Sunday is Earth Day (although, in my opinion, “Everyday Is Earth Day”).  And on Monday, the Biological Sciences Organization (BSO) will be sponsoring a Tree Planting Day on campus.  We will be planting four new trees along Big Bend, and we will be putting in a tree and natural-rock stepping stones in the triangular grassy area between AB and the sidewalk connecting to the arcade between Ryan Hall and AB.  Please come out and help us anytime between 10:00 and 2:30.  There will be free treats and prizes for all who volunteer!

When all of these stories and activities of mine are coupled with the fact that I used to think Shirley Temple was singing “amino acids in my soup” instead of “animal crackers in my soup” (a true story that Dr. Bookstaver found infinitely hilarious), I think it’s safe to say that I’m a nerd.  But I’m definitely happy to be one!

Andre, Dillon, Me, and Mike at Science Poster Day

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I Commute!

by Courtney March 23, 2012

Counting today, there are only three days left of spring break.  I do have to say that it’s been a great spring break.  Because I had four major tests the week before spring break (wait a minute, that was only last week – how time flies!),  I only have one test next week: organic chemistry.  As […]

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Where’s an Inhibitor When I Need One?

by Courtney March 16, 2012

I took my fourth test of the week yesterday.  It was a genetics test on operons, Darwin, cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate, not camp as in “summer camp”), and everything in between.  I was so exhausted that I thought I’d come home and fall asleep as soon as I hit the pillow.  But I didn’t. As always, my […]

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The Long Wait

by Courtney March 9, 2012

I just took my dog for about an hour-long walk in this morning’s beautiful, sunny weather.  The slight breeze felt cool as it hit my face, but my brisk pace kept me from feeling cold.  I thought about all of the things I could do today in this magnificent weather – go to the zoo, […]

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You Won’t Be Producing Adipic Acid

by Courtney February 17, 2012

Our anatomy professor, Dr. Smith, has been telling Carly and me about all of the crazy things he did in organic chemistry lab for as long as I can remember. One time, he told us that he accidentally lit his lab book on fire.  (But don’t worry, he “only lost about 60 or 70 pages […]

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Team Bio Majors

by Courtney February 10, 2012

This week has been a crazy week for biology majors, and it will only get crazier as we head in to next week. I had my first genetics test yesterday; I’m thinking (and hoping!) that it went relatively well. And next week, we have tests in anatomy/physiology 2, kinesiology, and organic chemistry 2. How do […]

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Goggle Face

by Courtney February 3, 2012

Last night, as we were waiting 45 minutes for our Grignard reactions to take place during organic chemistry, my friend and fellow blogger, Carly, and I came up with a new term: goggle face. This term may strike you as very strange. And, yes, it is. But I think that every science student out there […]

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