Why I`m a Scientist

It was a dark and stormy night in Mississippi when I first felt like a scientist.  But that is a story for another time...And this is the time to tell that story.  When I was an undergrad student at UAH, I applied for an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program at Mississippi State and the University of Alabama.  I got accepted into both schools and had to choose. I know it seems an easy choice for an Auburn fan, but I decided to visit both schools anyway.  Of course, Alabama has one of the top chemistry schools in the entire south but in Mississippi, I got to see my first double rainbow (and those things are powerful).   So the Mississippi summer is humid, which is an understatement because every time you try to breathe, it felt like you were suffocating.  But some nights were cool and there was a kickin' ice cream parlor right next to the campus.  I was working for an organic chemist and spent most of my time performing distillations, filtrations, and column chromatography.  On the day in question when I first felt like a scientist, I started a column later than usual due to a long lunch (I miss those), and usually it took a minimum of four hours to separate the necessary compounds.  I was expecting to be there until at least 7 pm, but the compound had not separated yet.  2 more hours and this compound was still being stubborn.  I adjusted mixtures and pressure (was using nitrogen)  and was so absorbed in the science I failed to recognize the sounds of an approaching storm.  Amidst the crash of the thunder and the flash of the lightning, I kept working at this column like it held the answers to everything.  I don't think I had ever been so focused in my life, and that is when I realized what science can give -- the ability to focus, not on the answer, but on the process of answering. Until this point, I had "played" a scientist rather than actually being one.  I didn't discover anything significant to the world that night and the reason the column took forever was a mistake I made earlier in the distillation (which I finally figured out by starting a secondary column), but that night gave me purpose to pursue one the greatest fields of thought (and careers) possible.  And that really is what learning and education provide.... a possibility for a great future - maybe even an opportunity to effectively change the world.  
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