Finding a comaraderie with compounds

Before I entered college, I felt terrified. I knew college would be difficult and wondered if I had what it would take to succeed. Now that I’m a senior, I see that even though the coursework can be very demanding, with the help of great professors here at Union, anyone can succeed.

When I arrived at Union College, I really didn’t know what I wanted to study. I thought something in the medical profession sounded interesting, so I decided try a chemistry major with an emphasis in biochemistry. Although I didn’t fully understand everything it would involve at the time, I think God led me into a field that grew more exciting for me as I learned.

My freshmen years was filled with general classes and only one science class, so it wasn’t until I took Organic Chemistry during my second year that I really started to get excited about my major. I’d expected each period to be filled with lectures, but that’s not Dr. Wolfe’s style. Instead, we solved problems in teams and developed critical thinking skills. Skeptical at first because previous teachers had always lectured, I soon realized I enjoyed teaching myself new concepts, and I retained a lot more, too. It was here I first became enamored with the world of hydrocarbons (carbon and hydrogen-containing compounds).

With each science course, I gained a greater understanding and passion for chemistry. I particularly enjoyed learning about metal complexes and nonorganic substances in Advanced Inorganic Chemistry, and the real-world applications we studied in Analytical Chemistry and Instrumental Analysis. Each course I’ve taken has its own obstacles, but one message has remained consistent: any hurdle can be overcome with God’s help.

Biochemistry is a lot of hard work, but I really enjoy it. Every day, I experience the world below the macroscopic level—a realm the average person rarely sees. People think I’m brilliant because my major sounds difficult. In reality, I’m just an average guy who works hard like everyone else. I work on campus as a teaching assistant, and in setting up for labs and helping with classes, I not only get additional experience mixing chemicals, I also learn in the best possible way—by helping others.

As a chemist, I know studying a single chemical is not nearly as interesting or enlightening as observing interactions. Similarly, ideas from different fields interact, so I’m glad I’ve received a broad education outside of the laboratory. In Personal Finance, we learned about handling money by playing a real life Monopoly game. I explored my artistic side in a pottery class by crafting several modern art pieces. But outside of chemistry, I think I enjoyed learning how the economy works in Macroeconomics the most. I know I’ll be able to take the knowledge that I’ve gained from my general education courses and be better equipped to handle the life God has in store for me. 

Union isn’t a huge university, and I think smaller is better. A low student-to-teacher ratio means my professors give me more one-on-one time. My teachers have an open-door policy and have done their best to help me succeed. I can’t say that any one professor stands out more than the rest—they have all inspired me to take advantage of every opportunity to learn. “Don’t look at a class just to get a grade,” says Dr. Madhiri, one of my chemistry professors. “Look at it as part of your career.”

I came to Union without a profession in mind, but now I know my path. Next year, with God’s help, I’ll be in pharmacy school. Because of my experiences here at Union, I feel ready to take on whatever my graduate studies throw at me. The professors helped me find my passion for chemistry, and have prepared me for life in so many ways. God knew I needed direction as He helped me set the course for my life. And that’s why He brought me to Union. 

Kenny Mapp discovered a love of chemistry while at Union College and is on his way to pharmacy school this fall.