Senior column: An ode to Uni science
Published: Friday, May 30, 2008 - 1:30pm
Gargoyle senior editor
Posted Friday, May 30, 2008
LOOKING BACK, MY memories of Uni High come washing over me in a flood.
There’s an overwhelming deluge of nonsensical inside jokes, classroom conversations, lunchtime laughs, the smell of rubber track, the yell of Assistant Principal Sue Kovacs as she wanders down the hall, my frustrations with calculus, the joy of reading “Emma,” the agony, the boredom, and last but certainly not least the awesomeness.
I remember the good times — the weird phrases my friends would come up with like “Neiner Neiner” or “Booty!” and the subsequent laughing for days that would inevitably follow.
I recall the bad times — the stressful days of having too much work and only 24 hours in a day — and even though I try to forget, the embarrassing times — like getting caught macking on a boyfriend at a boys basketball game and having a schoolwide e-mail sent out about public displays of affection (once again, I’m sorry, Mom and Dad).
But through it all I’ve always had a rock of support around me. Actually, it’s been more like a giant mountain, comparable to the size of Mt. Everest, and just as awe-inspiring and cool. A place where, looking back, I’ve always been able to go to in my times of need and I’ve always found comfort and good people.
It’s that majestic thing that inhabits the third floor, the bane of many people’s existence but certainly not mine: Uni’s science department.
I began my relationship with Uni’s science department with Patricia Morris. As all fairy tale romances go, the beginning was a bumpy one. And needless to say, being the very small subbie that I was, I was absolutely terrified that Morris might eat me.
But I prevailed. And, it was in fact the thing that most people dread about subbie year that made me realize that science may be my calling and that my infatuation with testing paper-towel efficiencies and rubber cement might be a more serious kind of attraction.
It was Cutting Edge that did it. It was the painful researching and making of 64 note cards to write up a 24-page paper about bioengineering that nearly drove me to insanity, but out of which I emerged thrilled that there were such interesting things happening in our world.
And then came the courtship. I can hardly recall who asked whom first, but science came knocking on my door in the form of first-year biology, and I gladly accepted the invitation for dinner and a movie.
David Stone’s freshman biology course was a thrill. His stories were great, and they kept me awake and interested. My notes were so organized and beautiful and I learned way too much, enough that I still remember a baby crustacean is called a “nauplius.”
I loved memorizing; I thought it was the coolest thing in the world that there was just so much to know and all I had to do was read about it, and I still do.
What followed was the “It’s like nothing else I’ve ever known” type of chemistry: The sparks flew, the beakers bubbled, and I was taking chemistry with David Bergandine.
From the periodic table and D orbitals to putting a Styrofoam cup on a heated hot plate (oopsies!), I was swept off my feet. Studying for tests and quizzes was fun, and writing paragraph after paragraph explanations on exams was even better.
Bergandine’s dry humor and extensive knowledge of chemistry kept me asking questions and taking independent studies with him.
From there I progressed onto a serious dating relationship with science. Fast forward a bit and you’ll see that physics with Jim “Ray” Carrubba, whom I often accidentally called Mr. Ray, was filled with exciting worksheets and hints that were actually the answers.
You’ll also see that Ray was the very first teacher I’d ever had an AIM conversation with, and with talking to rayrayplainsalt came discussions about life and calculus. When all else failed, and in the dark days of wrestling with calculus, I knew that I could always send off a plea of help to Ray via instant messenger and that he would promptly reply with much help.
Fast forward a bit more and I’ll have gotten through working in a lab, writing a manuscript for the Journal of Chemical Education, and you’ll see me where I am now.
Twelve semesters of Uni science, two independent studies, one University of Illinois microbiology class, and many hour-long discussions with Mr. Stone about careers, school, stress, life, science, racism, history, philosophy, and brownies later I have decided that science is a light at the end of the tunnel and a love that I will gladly pursue.
For that I say, here’s to you science teachers at Uni High. In all your quirkiness and your collective 81 years teaching at this school I have come to admire, respect, and deeply appreciate all that you have taught me. It’s been truly inspiring.
Thanks for listening to me as I vent about life, thanks for the calculus help, thanks for answering all of my questions and taking the time to look up the answers to the ones you didn’t know, and thanks for turning that light on in my head and showing me science in all of its controversy, magicalness, theory, practice, and wonder.