Facetious and Superfluous Remarks of a Chemistry Student

Spring 2014

Terry Blaskovits

Schulich Leader at Université Laval

The second semester moved more quickly than the first, but was academically very successful. During the reading week, I took the train to Southern Ontario to visit a family friend who lives on farm, to help in the maple syrup season. Maple syrup production has always held a certain fascination for me, as it involves wandering around in the woods, unexpected philosophical conversations in the sugar shack, many layers of history and tradition, and (of course!) chemistry.

After much deliberation on whether to return back west to work, to travel or to stay in Québec, I settled on taking on a research internship with a professor in my department, in an environmental analytical chemistry lab. My project is to determine a simple and portable method for analyzing uranium in water, for which I was awarded an NSERC research grant. I am enjoying and savouring my introduction to the world of scientific research, and the lab experience I`m gaining will be very beneficial in my upcoming courses.

I am very happy to be spending the summer here, where the city seemed to bloom in celebration of the end of the school year. The apple blossoms exploded and faded just outside my window, and I spend the warm evenings exploring Old Québec and discovering unfamiliar quarters of the city on my bike. The orchestra season in Lévis wrapped up very well with our final concert at the end of May, and I continued my visits to residents at a long term care facility throughout the semester. I`m also doing my mandatory language course during the spring semester: German! It is the first non-science course in my degree.

A common reaction I`ve come to expect when I answer the questions “What are you studying?” or “What are you doing this summer?” is one of dismissiveness and perplexity. So many people have the impression that chemistry is very distant and esoteric, but I’ve never understood such a perspective. If I’m asked why on earth I ever wanted to study such a thing, I answer that is because chemistry already is everything around us. How can one not get excited about breathing and photosynthesis and food? I think my personal goal for the rest of my degree will be to work on transmitting this fascination and excitement on to those who ask why I am so passionate about something that seems so arcane.