Since kindergarden I wanted to be a teacher. By sixth grade when I learned about the amazing way atoms fit together to make molecules, I decided I would teach science. In high school I walked home one glorious autumn day and was overwhelmed by the blue sky, the fall colors of the trees, and the crisp air. How wonderful if I could help people know about God, their Creator, through teaching about his magnificent creation! I can still picture the street where I walked that day. A dream was set in motion.
My high school chemistry teacher was fabulous. Mr. Welch did anything to help us pursue our dreams. I helped him work out new experiments that he would use in our class. My class was the first to be offered a third semester of chemistry, and the last to be taught how to use a slide rule. Hand-held calculators were fairly new and he told us about a former student whose calculator battery died during a final exam in college. She used her slide rule and finished with a perfect score. I never needed the slide rule but Mr. Welch had a lasting impact on my life with his fatherly efforts to prepare us for the future.
High school biology was OK. The teacher was good but he wasn’t nearly as passionate as Mr. Welch. There were some cool projects, like dissecting a frog and cleaning the skeleton so it could be reassembled for extra credit. I have not only dated myself now, but revealed the nerd that I was and still am! I went to Michigan State University with the idea that I would do something in the medical sciences.
Biology was interesting but molecular biology and genetics, new fields in the late 70s, were very exciting. Classes were offered in the department of microbiology so that is where I landed. An added benefit as an honors student was being able to spend my junior year in England at the University of Surrey.
College brought another turning point in my journey when I submitted my life to the Lord Jesus Christ. I had been raised in the church but still had to establish that heart connection with Christ. I was baptized in England and was drawn to share God’s love with international students when I got back to Michigan. I spent most of my year abroad with other international students, and I now had personal experience of the loneliness and cultural adjustments involved. I continued to study Scripture and took every opportunity to develop what I began to see as a call to teach the Bible and science together.
To study biology, especially as an honors student, meant reading Darwin’s Origin of Species and beginning the indoctrination of evolutionary theory. My understanding of life’s origin was that God created it all, but the details were fuzzy. Could both be true?
A debate during my senior year was scheduled between a proponent of evolution and Dr. Walter Brown, a creation scientist. Dr. Brown soundly won the debate without referring to the Bible or any line of reasoning that could be called a religious argument. What a relief to hear there was another option! It would be many years before I would learn about the defense of Genesis as taught by Dr. Henry Morris and other scientists at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in California.
In the meantime, I continued to break with conventional wisdom. What a journey! I married Victor, a pastor from Egypt who had an Arabic church in Michigan. The international part of my vision was unfolding. Working as a scientist in Detroit and later in California kept me surrounded with colleagues from many nations. Besides working in pharmaceutical research, I was able to teach science workshops for homeschool students at ICR and the dream from my high school walk was fulfilled.
It was great fun to visit my son Jeff’s classes, sometimes to help with reading or chaperone a field trip, and sometimes to talk about science. Like Mr. Welch had done for me, I hoped to inspire these students to pursue their dreams. I think it was his love for the Lord and for his students that made his love for science so contagious.
Planning a lesson for Jeff’s high school chemistry class, I remembered a wonderful illustration of God’s fingerprints in his creation. The picture below is a photo of my slides drawn on acetate film for an overhead projector. Smudges and all! Technology has brought the tools of a teacher a long way in the last ten years! At least I can say I have my own color printer and scanner now so I could convert these into digital images.
The molecules shown are porphyrins. The primary structures are identical, the minor differences being the colored functional groups (chemistry lingo, sorry) and the central atom in each. Fe stands for iron, Mg for magnesium. Can you guess yet what these are?
The red is heme, a component of hemoglobin, making your red blood cells red. The green is chlorophyll, making green plants green. They are the two essential molecules that provide energy for animals and for plant life.
THE COLORS OF LIFE!!