What was your first experience with food or science?

Cooking at Lily's parents house in TivertonI remember the growing up and watching my grandfather cook.  He was a chef who loved French cuisine and made wonderful deserts.  I got my love of food and science from him.  He would sit there and tell me about what the heat would do to the sugar while I watched the sugar slowly caramelize.  I listened in rapture as he explained the changes in consistency the and flavor of caramel.  He also loved to make sauces and gelatin.  The gelatin kind of grossed me out, but the sauces always smelled so delicious and tasted even better.  I learned about blending the spices and about ratios and combination of ingredients.  I remember the care he always took in measuring ingredients, how he would clean and sterilize his work area.  How he seemed to cook from memory, but he always had his trusty notebook where he kept his notes on food and recipes.

These memories have wakened in me the desire to take the principles I practice in the lab, and transplant them into my kitchen. I love to experiment and think of new ways to prepare food.  Not just changing the flavor, but changing how it is cooked and prepared.  I am extremely lucky to have a partner who is as interested in cooking and creating good food as I am.  We share recipes, ideas, menus, and generally wreak havoc in the kitchen, but we create great meals.  She bakes and makes great deserts, while I love the salty and meaty foods.

I am lucky that I had a great introduction to food and the science of cooking at an early age.  I learned that food was much more than sustenance.  It excites and nourishes the soul just as it provides nourishment to our bodies.  Now more than ever, I miss my grandfather and I wish I could prepare a meal for him like the ones he prepared many times while I was growing up.

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Darwin’s 200th Annivesary

Picture of Charles DarwinToday is the birthday of Charles Darwin.  To me, Charles Darwin embodies the ideals of a scientist and a humanist.  I grew up in a household which did not believe in the evolution of life forms over time through natural selection.  The world was close to 6000 years old and we were approaching the end of the world.  The eminent destruction of the world as I knew it had a troubling effect on my being.

I was 13 years old when I first heard of the Theory of Natural Selection and was amazed and excited by this new finding.  When I asked about it, the answers I received were unsatisfactory.  As I learned about chemistry, radiation energy, and the structure of atoms I began to realize that the stories I grew up with had some serious holes.  After a while, I stopped asking those around me and took to reading textbooks I checked out of the public library near my house.  In those teenage years, I learned not to believe in an idea just because someone said it was true, but to investigate, analyze, hypothesize, and interrogate life until I was satisfied that the data explained my observations through an order set of laws.  These principles were what drove me to return to school to pursue science as a life long passion.

To negate the existence of evolutionary forces which drive the selection of traits which allow a species to survive environmental stresses is a self defeating position to hold.  To deny the environmental forces which drive the theory of evolution is akin to denying the forces driving the theory of gravity.  We see the results of evolution every time we ride a horse, take our dogs for walks in the part, and read about how a pathogenic organism has developed resistance to the most current drug regimens.

I hope that you celebrate Darwin Day with me and stop for a moment sometime during the day to appreciate the life and contributions of this great renaissance man.

Professor John M. Essigmann – Mentor and Friend – Wins MIT’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award

Professor John Essigmann was awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award tonight for his work over his tenure at MIT as an advocate for the minority community making students, faculty, and all other members of MIT feel welcome at MIT.  John is one of those people who you meet in life and are immediately comfortable with him.  I first met John when I was visiting MIT in the spring of 2000.  I had just been accepted to the Chemistry PhD program and was in Cambridge on the prospective student visiting weekend.  I sat at the dinner table with Professors John Essigmann and Cathy Drennan and had a great time at dinner.  John and Cathy made everyone feel comfortable and welcome to MIT.

The next time I met John was when I was a Teaching Assistant for 5.07, the Chemistry version of Biological Chemistry.  I got to know John and eventually asked him to be the chair of my Thesis Committee.  As time passed and I got to know John better, I realized what an amazing person he is.  He and Ellen, his wife, at Simmons Hall, a really cool undergraduate dormitory at MIT.  The things John does around MIT are just too numerous to list here.

John also works to educate students who suffer from economic necessity worldwide. He has worked as an educator in Thailand for over two decades, dedicating his time to teach students in Thailand on how to design and develop drug research programs that investigate and provide relief to diseases which affect  third world countries.

I can’t think of a better person to receive this prestigious award than John.  Kudos to you!

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Making my first widget plugin

I have spent some time setting up my blog and playing with the design and the content.  Now I am looking to try to make my own widget plugins for my sidebars.  I would like to stream some news feed from the NY Times or from a science news feed such as Nature, Science, or any other related news feed on my sidebars.  I hope to have some of these done and put up shortly.  Wish me luck.