want to get kids excited about careers in
again. I became a scientist because I
wanted to make a difference. I want to make
a difference in my life, and I want to teach
students how to make a difference in theirs.”
Garon Smith -
Smith can’t seem to make up his mind about which character from
a fantasy novel he would like to be. Smith, a UM chemistry professor and
sometimes wizard, is known to chomp down on a liquid-nitrogen-cooled Cheetos-Puff™
that’s 321 degrees below zero while enough dragon-like steam pours
from his nostrils to momentarily cover his graying beard.
better known around campus as G. Wiz, uses simple chemical tricks like
this to draw students into the world of chemistry and keep them there.
“Students will come up and say, ‘Are you sure this is a chemistry
course? This is good stuff,’” Smith says. Students in a range
of majors from medi-cal sciences to forestry to wildlife biology must
take Smith’s CHEM 151 course. He
tries to reach out to show them all that chemistry matters – regardless
of their projected field.
know which examples to pick to make it relate,” he says. When not
teaching, Smith often becomes G. Wiz, complete with wizard’s cape
and hat, touring schools around the state to teach short lessons and get
kids interested in science.
the summer at UM, he even teaches a course for high school students called
“Potions 101.” “It’s a form of job insurance,”
he jokes, “To make high school students want to take my class. “Besides,”
he says with a wry smile, “I teach this to my second-year class
when I substitute at Hogwarts.”