My summer started on the 5th of May in St. Louis at Washington University Medical School. The previous Friday, I jumped in my car after finals and drove east along I-70, visiting friends in Denver, and ending up in St. Louis on Sunday. I grew up in St. Louis and my two brothers live in St. Charles County. My father is buried in St. Charles. Even though my notion of home has changed, traveling back to Missouri still feels like I am coming home.
When I returned to college in 2011, thirteen years had passed since I last sat in a classroom. Skipping the long story about my past failure with college, I walked in the door on day one, with little confidence and plenty of doubt. Well, as it turns out, my first year back was a success based on many factors, some related to my commitment and others related to the culture of learning at Fort Lewis College.
For many years, I had a question in my head that would not go away – should I return to school and commit to earning a four year degree? My late 20’s and early 30’s involved long summers working in backcountry settings followed by quiet winters, working random jobs to pass the time. I discovered Durango in 2009. At the time, I was managing a two-year project protecting sensitive high alpine environment in the San Juan Mountains.
Outside the beekeeping world, the word Varroa destructor does not cause the same fear as in someone who maintains bee colonies. This bug is one of the main culprits responsible for causing massive declines in worldwide honeybee populations. This past summer I had the opportunity, through the Fort Lewis College Chemistry department, to conduct innovative research on combating this pest.
Sitting in a Chemistry 150 lecture at 8:00 am on a summer morning was the last place I thought I would ever find myself. When I started at Fort Lewis College, being a history major, I waited a long time to fulfill this general education requirement, a science with a lab. Despite my apprehension, I found the hands-on problem solving in chemistry invigorating and the panoply of research topics riveting. In the two following semesters, I took chemistry classes “just for fun,” and they led to a life-changing decision.
Organic chemistry is known to be one of the most feared undergraduate classes by students nationwide, the gatekeeper course for of all pre-med and pre-veterinary students, the weeder class for biology majors. Organic chemistry is defined as the chemistry of carbon compounds. It’s a difficult course because unlike most chemistry classes it’s not mathematically based; rather, it focuses on visual interpretation and the ability to spatially arrange molecules and elucidate the synthesis of compounds.