Summer 2013: Can’t Wait

Even though I have two weeks of classes and three final exams between now and summer, I can’t help but get excited about what lies ahead. Like last summer the overall theme is going to be WORK. I will be working 5 days a week here at Gordon College for the Grounds department, doing everything from mulching beds to mowing lawns to working with the irrigation system.

In addition to working for Gordon, I have picked up a couple side jobs doing landscaping/maintenance. I’ll be working from Annisquam to Wingaersheek to right here in Wenham doing whatever needs to be done to keep houses and yards going strong.

Those are the jobs that I get paid for. A big part of my summer plans include getting into the biology research lab at Gordon and getting ahead in my molecular ecology research project. This project will most likely become my honors research thesis, which means that I need to use the summer to get as far ahead in the work as I can before junior year hits. While this is going to be difficult, I am excited to be in the lab on a consistent basis and not have a million other academic responsibilities hanging over my head.

You might be thinking that these summer plans don’t leave any room to have fun. On the contrary, I think that these summer plans sound like nothing but fun. I so enjoy working outside and working to make things look nice that my Grounds job and my side jobs will be so much fun. I also get a lot of satisfaction from working in the lab at my own pace with a little country music in the background. It’s going to be so awesome to be on campus everyday this summer. While the campus may not be as buzzing as it is during the academic calendar, the students who stay to work around campus during the summer are great to be around. I can’t wait to enjoy time away from the rigors of college life with fellow student workers. And I can’t wait to, for the first time in months, roll the windows down in the truck and play my country music just a bit too loud.

A Glimpse Into the Daily Grind

Ever wonder what a day might look like for a biology major? Well, here’s a peek into what I get up to during a typical Wednesday:

Typical morning drink lineup: cranberry + apple juice (sometimes orange juice), coffee, ice water

Learning new reactions in organic chemistry

Bringing my lacrosse team in for a huddle

Teaching how to throw in lacrosse

Extracting DNA from small mammal tissue for my molecular ecology research

Spring is, Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt, HERE!

Cherry trees in front of Chase Hall. Gorgeous.

After months of staring at dead, yellowing grass and frail tree branches, I wondered if spring still existed. Well, after a spot of rain last weekend, there is no denying it– spring is here! I wrote last semester about all the different kinds of plants we have on campus, but I didn’t get the chance to show everything coming to life. I have that chance now, and I’m stoked about it.

Magnolia tree near the science building. Also gorgeous.

Green Chemistry!

Talking about green chemistry at Gordon

In a couple weeks, four of my classmates and I will go to my high school and give a talk on something called “green chemistry.” While this may sound like a hippie and eco-crazy subject, green chemistry is one of the most exciting fields of chemical engineering out there. And you don’t have to hug every tree you see to enjoy it.

When you strip it down, green chemistry is sustainable chemistry designing chemical reactions and processes that are safer for human health and the health of the environment. It’s basically looking at reactions and asking, “Can I make this safer? Can I design it to make more of what I want and make less of what I don’t?” Green chemistry is still chemistry, but it’s chemistry that’s more aware of the hazards of the chemicals we are using and of the waste that we are producing.

Making biodiesel

For a long time, chemists were taught only one way to make their target. It didn’t matter if this method required nasty chemicals like diazomethane or PCC (pyridinium chlorochromate) because there was really only one way to make what you needed. Green chemistry looks at this and says, “Woah there buddy. Before you use those chemicals, can we rethink how the reaction works and see if we can use something safer?” Like I said, green chemistry incorporates a lot of engineering and problem solving.

And the beauty (or maybe the curse) of chemistry is that there are SO MANY REACTIONS to improve! This means that we’ve been a bit irresponsible until recently about how we’re doing chemistry, but it also means green chemists have so many opportunities to improve these processes and to teach people what green chemistry is all about.

Green chemistry is foundational to the chemistry department at Gordon College. From the freshman general chemistry courses up through upper level chemistry seminars, students are introduced to the vast opportunities to incorporate green chemistry into their field of interest. In organic chemistry, which is what I’m currently taking, a significant portion of the second semester is devoted to GOLum projects (GOLum stands for Green Outreach Literacy Forum). GOLum projects range from working with the national EPA board to working with Beyond Benign (an organization devoted to teaching people how to teach green chemistry) to giving presentations at local high schools. This is an incredible opportunity because students get the chance to educate the future chemists and plant the “green chemistry seed” early on. It was something I wish I had more exposure to in my high school chemistry course. But I guess it’s better late than never.

Rehearsal of our GOLum project

Tucked Away in North Beverly

The Garden City Pub is not very visible from Route 1A in Beverly; the Stabucks/Bertucci’s/TD Bank complex stands in the way. But this lack of visibility is not accompanied with a lack of good food. Garden City Pub offers a great takeout menu for people (like me) who often eat when transitioning from one task to another; everything from big, healthy Gorgonzola salad to flavorful fajitas. I also hear the marinated lamb shish-kabob entree is heavenly. The restaurant is only 10 minutes away from Gordon College, so it’s one of the easier options for anyone looking for a nice dinner out or simply a change of pace from the cafeteria on campus. Check it out!

Hoooah!

My ex-Coast Guard sherpa, his head down, concentrating on the roots and rocks springing forth from the trail, bellowed our rallying cry. Hoooah! The rest of us echoed him in unison. HOOOAH! We might not have been cadets, but the army grunt gave us all the kick in the pants we needed to keep moving.

It was my group’s last hiking day on La Vida, and before us towered Whiteface Mountain, the fifth-highest peak in the Adirondacks. I couldn’t help but think it slightly cruel that after ten straight days of hard hiking we had saved the biggest peak for last. But I guess it would not have been La Vida if we hadn’t saved the toughest for last.

While the previous ten days had worn out, cut up, and chafed raw our legs and arms, the days leading up to Whiteface had also seasoned us. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, summiting Whiteface would not have been possible without my blisters and bruises, my sweat and stench, and my bites and bloodshed (there wasn’t much, don’t worry; just a couple skinned knees and elbows).

I think this is why our rallying cry was so appropriate to our La Vida trip. While La Vida and basic training are not the same in practice, the principles are, I think, similar. Like basic training, La Vida breaks you down, only to build you up again. After twelve days in the middle of the woods, I felt stronger physically (those sixty-pound packs aren’t going to carry themselves over the mountains) and spiritually. For the first time in a long time I had the chance to be quiet and take some time to look around a sliver of God’s creation, and my gosh is it ever stunning.

This was never more apparent than on our trek up Whiteface. As we climbed higher, the trees got thinner, offering us the kind of landscapes that would make Monet stumble. The burning in our calves and quads was obsolete compared with our burning desire to get to the top, to look over where we’d come from.

And when got to the top, what else was there to say other than HOOOAH!

A Saturday at MoMA

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

When I got the email from the art department at Gordon inviting any and all students on a museum trip to New York City, I jumped at the opportunity. While I would not label myself an artist (and definitely not a good one), I do enjoy looking at photography, paintings, and sculptures from famous artists when I have the chance.

So this past Saturday forty of us took a coach bus to NYC and were dropped off to have fun at museums! I spent my day at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). While a lot of the exhibits were fabulous (I’m thinking now of van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Munch’s “The Scream”) there were a couple pieces that just made me laugh. I’m sorry, but a big square of pollen from a hazelnut tree doesn’t ignite anything in me except allergies.

I mean I GUESS you could call it progressive…

Beauty in Liturgy

Christ the Redeemer Church in Danvers, MA

In just two days, thousands of people throughout the country (myself included) will walk around with something black smudged on our foreheads. No, it’s not dirt, no, it’s not engine oil, and no it’s not the remnants of a knock-down-drag-out the night before. That black smudge is ash, collected from freshly burned palm leaves. Now, those of you familiar with the liturgical church calendar will know why people will be parading around with ashes streaked across their forehead. But for those who don’t follow the liturgical calendar, Wednesday February 13th is Ash Wednesday, and marks the beginning of Lent.

Many people I’ve talked to know the season of Lent as “that time of the year where you have to give something up.” While it’s true that many choose to participate in Lent by giving up something they like, it is not required that anyone give up anything. In liturgical churches, this 40-day fast leading up to Easter is more about reflection and preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church in Danvers, MA, is one of the “higher” churches in the area, and has been my home every Sunday morning for close to three years.

Calling Christ the Redeemer Anglican (CTR, for short) a “high” church simply means that it adheres to the liturgical calendar and follows the established tradition of the Holy Eucharist. The worship songs come from a hymnal, the prayers come from the Book of Common Prayer and are chanted, and everyone takes Communion (also called the Eucharist) every week.

When contrasted with more informal versions of Sunday worship services, the structured style (also called “the liturgy”) employed by CTR may seem repetitive, unoriginal, maybe even uninspiring. This could not be further from the truth.

There is beauty in the liturgy. One cannot sit through a service at CTR and not feel reverence toward God. Whenever my mind wanders during the service (which happens more than I’d like to admit), something is there to bring me back to reality, back to the LORD. Just this past Sunday, I found myself thinking about the Modern Genetics exam I had the next day and how much material I needed to go over. As I passed the offering plate to the person behind me and thought about the different regions of the Y chromosome, the basses in the choir hit a low, reverberating note that harmonized perfectly with the other voices. Chills shot down my spine and out to my extremities. The Y chromosome was shouldered out of my mind by this note, this boundless, deep note. I was abruptly brought back to the service and to God.

That is what I love about CTR and the liturgy. Everything has a purpose– to help the layperson worship the LORD, to ready them to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, and to prepare them to go into the world in peace, with strength and courage to love and serve the LORD, and with gladness and singleness of heart.

Gordon College is situated in a wonderful location for students looking to find the church that suits them. The more liturgically inclined folks can check out Christ the Redeemer Anglican, Christ Church of Hamilton and Wenham, or St. Mary Star of the Sea in Beverly. For those looking for a more informal worship setting can look at The Harbor in Beverly, Netcast Church in Beverly, or East Gloucester Community Church in Gloucester. This list only scratches the surface of potential churches available to Gordon students. The common refrain about college is that  ”it is a time to experiment.” This is especially true for one’s spiritual life. I am so blessed that I’ve found a church that I connect to and engage with. My peers have the same opportunity, and they take full advantage of that.

Why Gordon College, Anyway?

My hand shoved my phone under my pillow, stifling its jubilant melody. It could not be that time already, I told myself. It could not be time to don the sweatshirts, flannel-lined jeans, rubber boots, and that classic Bass Pro Shops trucker hat and foray into eye-watering cold. It could not be time for my fellow workers and me to shuffle like penguins from building to building, clearing sheets of snow from walks and doorways around campus.

I looked at my phone, hoping, praying, that it was 4:30 A.M. so that I could go back to sleep for another hour. Nope. 5:32 A.M. Oh joy.

I left my room 15 minutes later and made my way to the Physical Plant building, taking note of the slight breeze that gouged my face. Why, I asked myself, am I doing this?

Then it hit me. Very few guys my age have the luxury- no, the privilege, to attend college. Only a tiny fraction of those guys go to a college that is willing to hire them to work for the school clearing snow, serving food, or working for the president. And perhaps most distinguishing feature of Gordon College, the thing that set the school apart from the others, and the thing that has keeps me here more than anything else, is the fact that this campus is centered on Christ.

While its wonderful and an absolute blessing that the faculty and staff are committed to helping students grow in their faith, they are not the only catalysts for growth. Students here want to grow, to ask questions, and to seek answers with one another. Some choose to do so directly by offering spiritual life groups– I attend one Tuesday and Thursday mornings that goes through the Morning Prayer liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer.

Daily Evening Prayer in the BCP

Other students engage one another’s faith more indirectly through groups and clubs like Rec-IM and Advocates for a Sustainable Future. The common thread running through such student-organized outlets is the promotion of spiritual growth in all areas of academics and life.

We are so blessed at Gordon College to be surrounded by young men and women who want to know more and who want to grasp their faith and run with it. This past Monday, the Chapel speaker, former WBZ reporter Rev. Liz Walker, proclaimed that, “The Kingdom of God isn’t just far off somewhere. It’s right here.”

I hope I don’t forget this the next time my alarm screeches at 5:30 in the morning. Gordon’s platform for growth with the LORD is really why I came here a year and a half ago, and it’s why I keep coming back.