Chemistry News from the Reed Magazine, March 2019

The March 2019 issue of the Reed Magazine, From Here to There, is a reminder of the many ways that Reedies can fascinate. Dip inside and you will discover the seldom told story of Inez Freeman ’48 in “Black Student, White City“. In the years immediately following World War II, Inez was Reed’s sole African-American student and only the second African-American to graduate from Reed, following in the footsteps of Geraldine Turner ’32. Or, you can cruise the bike lanes of Southern California alongside urban anthropologist Adonia Lugo ’05 and examine these lanes through an equity lens in “What’s Wrong with Bike Lanes?”. (Having grown up in the 1960’s as a bike commuter in the east San Fernando Valley, I learned that more things had changed for cyclists than the addition of bike helmets.) And there’s plenty of chemistry news to fascinate the reader as well.

Four Billion Miles and Counting is a tale from outer space, specifically the contributions that Olwen Morgan ’76 made to the exploration of outer space in her four-decade career at Aerojet Rocketdyne. As a chemist, she specialized in the stuff that makes rocket ships go (can you say, “monopropellant hydrazine thrusters”?) and it is this stuff that has powered NASA missions to every planet in the solar system, including not-quite-planets like Pluto and Ultima Thule. She credits some of her early job success with her ability to write, something that she cultivated at Reed under the tutelage of three chemistry professors, her thesis adviser John Hancock [1955-89], Marsh Cronyn ’40 [1952-89], and Tom Dunne [1963-95]. As Olwen describes it, the ability to write clearly about technical topics “was my ticket to ride.”

Much closer to home is Changing How We Get There, 10 vignettes on Reedies who are having an impact on transportation-related issues. Prof. Miriam Bowring [chemistry, 2016-] and her students are exploring catalysts that can divide hydrogen molecules into individual hydrogen atoms, and then “tunnel” these atoms over to oxygen atoms, liberating energy and water as the only exhaust. If they succeed, gasoline engines may become a historical footnote.

Class Notes has much to offer as well … congratulations go to Arlene Blum ’66 on her induction into the California Hall of FamePeter Barr-Gillespie ’81 has been named Chief Research Officer and Executive Vice President at OHSU. He first came to OHSU in 1980-1 to do the lab work that formed the basis of his senior thesis project … Sarah Herbelin ’91 is the director of the City of Oakland’s Lake Merritt Boating Center. The Center offers field trips to local 5th-grade classes, and learn-to-sail classes for adults … Kristen Grauer-Gray ’07 is back in Africa, this time Liberia, as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching science teachers how to use local materials for hands-on classroom science experiments … and we learn from Lydia Clark ’12 that she is now married to the “wonderful” Alex von Diezmann ’11. Alex is working at the University of Utah as a “super-postdoc”, uniting his background in physical chemistry and molecular biology to make advances in imaging technology. Lydia, meanwhile, has started a neurology residency at U. of Utah.

In Memoriam provided a detailed look at Reed days-gone-by as seen through the recently deceased Charles Conrad Carter ’46, MD. Dr. Carter didn’t write a senior thesis so we might be stretching things a little by calling him a chemist, but he said, “I had this great education at Reed in the sciences” so we’ll turn the page over to his memories of Reed (read his full account here):

After harboring a dream of becoming a doctor, but then spending the first summer after high school fishing in Alaska, Conrad found himself talking to a friend who was a Reed student and admitting that he hadn’t applied to any colleges. “In those days, the idea was that you had to be pretty brainy to get into medical school, and I wasn’t really terribly impressed with my academic capabilities.” Nevertheless, his friend called the Reed admissions office and they gave Conrad a special exam. “Looking back on it, I think that Reed and all the other colleges were concerned about the lack of a student body. The males were all going off to war. Reed probably assumed that I’d be going to war before the year was over, in the first place, and in the second place, they had the room.”

Conrad found the academics at Reed demanding. “In those days, there was a mixing of age groups in the dorms. The older students were used to studying or they wouldn’t be where they were; so there was no fooling around after dinner. You kept quiet or the big boys would come after you and see to it that you kept quiet. I began to study very hard, on Saturday mornings and all day on Sunday. I developed this self-control and was able to deny some of the enjoyments that I had when I was in high school for the sake of making it.”

Students who were in academic trouble would get a white slip in their campus mailbox, and the days leading up to the distribution of white slips were always anxious ones. “I never had a white slip. It’s interesting that there were four of us from my high school who started Reed together. The other three had been on the Honor Society, but I was the only one of the four who graduated from Reed. I think that the other three were very dependent upon positive feedback for their academic commitment – their teachers, their parents. At Reed, you didn’t get academic feedback. Teachers weren’t patting you on the back, because if you did very well you were expected to do very well.”

The rest of Conrad’s story tells the journey that led through the military, medical school, and beyond. As he made his way, eventually becoming a neurologist at OHSU, he reflected, “I’m very appreciative of what Reed did for me.” Conrad is survived by three of his sons, Charles Conrad Jr., Christopher, and Ronald.

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