The Lab

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No one is more surprised than me that my son Sam is going to be starting a Ph.D. program in organic chemistry in the fall.  “Organic chemistry?” a friend recently asked.  “Isn’t that the subject that knocks kids off their course to medical school.”  Yes, but mostly because they fail it, not because they’re so good at it their professors ask them to consider graduate work.

That’s what happened to Sam.  Three years after finishing his B.A. in English, he was still figuring out what he wants to be when he grows up.  After considering graduate work in psychology, he decided what he really wanted to do was go to medical school.  He started taking chemistry courses last summer, to get his pre-med prerequisites completed with a plan to apply to medical schools next year.  He unexpectedly found he was a natural at chemistry and loves working in a lab, that getting a graduate degree would mean free school, a decent living stipend and health insurance, and a new path opened up in front of him.

David and I are in Tennessee visiting Sam and Marianna, and we went to see the lab where Sam works today.  It looked like a real mad scientist’s lab, with a tray of dishes tilting back and forth, a beaker of a yellowish glop twirling behind a glass window, racks of small tubes with colorful tops and bottles of chemical mixtures behind glass with mysterious symbols written in black.  Sam talked about the work he’s doing and showed us his lab book, full of notes and numbers and drawings of chemical structures.  As an English major myself, I could fully appreciate the papers Sam wrote during college and the short stories and essays he produced for his honors project when he graduated from Clark University.  The research he’s part of at the University of Tennessee is all foreign to me, but fascinating, and a reminder that the best way to figure out where you’re going is often to just keep moving.

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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3 Responses to The Lab

  1. Jasmine says:

    Yay Sammy! I loved your post a bit back about life being like a river, and to go with the flow. Seems like its working for him. I also really dig that photo of all the beakers from above. Can’t wait to show Wylie these pictures, he can’t wait to do “real” chemistry. Thanks for sharing. I love reading both you and Adrienne’s blogs.
    -Jasmine

  2. akbarnard says:

    I love the pic of him showing David something- makes me verklempt!

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