By Audrey White, Staff Writer
When most people hear the words “organic chemistry,” it’s not met with a positive reaction, but for Professor Gregory Suryn, it brings a smile to his face. Suryn has come to Gettysburg College to teach as a lecturer for Organic Chemistry 203 and General Chemistry 107.
For those who might not know, every section of General Chemistry is taught with a theme, so the class is looked at through the lens of a certain topic. This semester that topic is art, and Professor Suryn describes how “having a theme helps to give students something else to peak their interest. It’s a little more exciting to think about in practical uses.”
The art theme for this year allows students to see how chemistry relates to more traditional arts like painting and photography. Never having taught a chemistry course like this, Suryn has been challenged to learn new material along with his students, which he is very appreciative of as it gives him a new perspective.
His love for learning, along with all things chemistry, stems from his high school chemistry teacher. Suryn’s teacher did a “very good job of teaching us how to think critically not just in chemistry, but in other areas.”
Although Suryn’s chemistry teacher put him on the path to enter the science field, it was not until he entered college that he realized chemistry was truly his calling.
In Suryn’s junior year of college he was completing research when he decided he did not want to do research for the rest of his life and that he would become a chemistry teacher. He graduated from Grinnell College, similar in size to Gettysburg, in 2011 and then got his PhD from the University of California, Irvine in 2017.
Wanting the same small school environment he had in undergrad, Suryn jumped at the chance to come to Gettysburg. Now having taught for a few weeks, Suryn states that he “enjoys the process of actually knowing my students, not just lecturing to a crowd.” Part of what made his college experience special at Grinnell was being able to interact with his professors, and he is looking forward to being able to do the same here, though now he is the professor.
Chemistry has a bad reputation as being extremely difficult, and many students don’t pursue it after high school, but Professor Suryn encourages students to give it a shot.
“Chemistry can help illuminate everyday life occurrences, things you interact with on a daily basis,” said Suryn.
While at Gettysburg, Suryn hopes to bring chemistry to more students and make it interesting through developing a first-year seminar. This course would be beneficial to even students who might not be going into chemistry. He could show how chemistry can enrich their lives and help students to develop an appreciation for science in the world around them.
Like many who live in Gettysburg, Suryn enjoys the community and spending time outdoors. A Colorado native, he is not the stereotypical snowboarder, but still took advantage of the terrain by being an avid mountain biker. According to Suryn, there are some good trails nearby so he can continue one of his favorite pastimes.
As a final note, Professor Suryn advises students, “Use your resources. I think that students are afraid to use office hours or PLAs because they haven’t in the past, or feel like they should do it on their own.”
Hopefully his words will positively influence some students to see their professors or to try chemistry again because no one has to go through college alone.