How is it that I am making this trip? I don't know the real answer since that is in the mind of the mystery donor. But I'll share a little about who I am and leave it to you to deduce some of the reasons.
I currently teach science at a small, private high school, Sparhawk School, located in Salisbury, MA. I teach chemistry, physics, biology, forensics, and a class I call "Evolution of Science," which covers the big ideas in science as told from the perspective of the people with the original ideas (e.g., Darwin, Einstein, Newton, etc.). It is a science class in which I promise "no math." It is based on Bill Bryson's wonderful book "A Short History of Nearly Everything." The premise of such an approach is that I believe everyone should know enough about science to be able to read, discuss, buy, and vote with some confidence, even if they can't use a slide rule or NMR spectrophotometer. But, unlike traditional science classes, they don't need to know the number of moles of of carbon dioxide in their beverage so that they can calculate the partial pressure of CO2 once the drink is taken to a higher altitude and warmed over a campfire. You get the idea . . . I want the students to simply know enough to be able to make informed judgements on new sources of energy, what concerns should be expressed over consumer products and medications, how best to illustrate a scientific idea, and to never (I said NEVER) use time travel in their movie productions since it always ruins the movie for me. [Disclaimer: I do not say time travel could never happen].
We go by first names in our school, and that is why you see the "Dr Bob" above. I tease that I eventually want my own TV show, and by borrowing the leads of the Dr Phil and Judge Judy series, I like the idea of "Dr Bob."
Teaching science is a relatively new career - one that I started in 2008. Prior to teaching I spent over 30 years in industrial research and development. Those years were filled with wonderful projects and experiences that included positions at Procter and Gamble, WR Grace (Grace Membrane Systems and Amicon), and Millipore. I worked in the International Division at P&G and developed products for Latin America and Asia. My career there was filled with great learning. A major part of my career was involved with a project in which we developed a photobleaching agent for laundry detergents that would work in cultures where cold water washing and sun drying of clothes was the norm. Conventional bleaching agents do not work under those conditions. The compound that resulted from this work worked by absorbing onto the fabric and absorbing the sun's energy during drying to activate oxygen in the air to produce an agent that would break the chemical bonds in the stain that create the color appearance. Amazing!
I received a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Illinois and a subsequent MBA in Marketing from the University of Cincinnati while I was working at Procter and Gamble. My industrial career provided great opportunities for learning good project and people management skills, but it also created a great appreciation of Dilbert cartoons. I am trained as an analytical chemist, which, simply stated, is a science of knowing how to ask the questions and collect the data. I moved from industry into teaching after a layoff from Millipore as part of a large acquisition. The layoff gave me the chance to explore a teaching career - something I had enjoyed as a graduate student at Univ of Illinois. And so now I am teaching.
The rapid pace of science innovation over the past 100 years is astounding, and I expect it to continue. And so I find that this is a great time to be teaching science - to share the many exciting innovations that have been developed and to peek into the future as to what might come next. The best part of teaching is getting questions that reflect a basic knowledge of the science but raises good points that spark a discussion. We learn together as a class, and I include myself as one who benefits from that learning. One discussion, on evolution, sparked an insight in me that I had not considered before. Wow. Thanks to the class that took the discussion in that direction! The best part of teaching is to see the flashes of understanding and to even experience them myself (don't tell my students).
From a personal perspective, I have a great family and must thank my wife, Lana, for all of the great experiences we've been able to accomplish since I met her our first semester at Indiana University in 1967. She sat up front in a chemistry class and seemed a good student. For my biology students, I should simply state that I was greatly attracted to her phenotype. My own phenotype, unfortunately, did not allow for a rapid introduction (I'm introverted) and it was only the chance occasional meeting that started a long relationship that resulted in our marriage in 1980.
Both Lana and I love outdoor adventures and we found ourselves on many backpacking, river rafting, canoeing and hiking trips. We are environmentalists who believe humans are quickly changing the earth and we must understand and take appropriate measures to preserve the best of our planet. I will admit I'm biased, but there is SO much we could do to achieve a better balance of man and nature. I'm strongly supportive of research that helps our planetary roommates, such as the dolphins. We need to establish alternative energy sources and eliminate oil spills in the ocean and mountaintop removal for coal. My earlier stance against nuclear energy (1970 - 2000) has been reversed. Yes, we must do research to improve the safety and waste disposal issues. But our reliance on coal and oil is deadly to all of us, especially sea life and coal miners.
I mentioned that Lana and I love the outdoors. This could be best exemplified by our honeymoon in 1980. We made a 4-month trip driving up the Alaskan highway, camping, hiking, canoeing, and backpacking all along the way. Our more memorable trips include: 2 weeks kayaking the Noatak River above the Artic Circle in Alaska, 10 days rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, rafting the Main and Middle Forks of the Salmon River in Idaho, canoeing the Yukon River in the Yukon Territory in Canada, and backpacking trips through both the Selway Bitteroot and Bob Marshall Wildernesses in ID and MT, respectively. Some example memories: 4 grizzly bears swimming alongside our canoe in the Yukon River, remote campsites in the wilderness, sunsets in the mountains, cold water lakes set in basins, small chipmunks dropping off a tree limb above our tent for the thrill of sliding down the roof, and giant eagle nests among the cliff rocks. We were astounded to find the number of artifacts along the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska that were left there by the gold rush pioneers. Sleds, stoves, shoes, tools, and other items dotted the trail along our backpacking route.
My hobbies include digital photography, video editing, and outdoor activities in northwest Montana, where we own a log cabin on a lake. Here's a short rafting video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFJw6cpzcRI