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In Memory of Professor Ronald Breslow

November 3, 2017

Alright readers, I am going to take a moment to write on a serious topic: the death of my PhD advisor and mentor, Professor Ronald Breslow. There are no shortage of descriptors, obituaries, and articles about Professor Breslow on the internet for you to read as you see fit. I would recommend in particular:

 

1. Chemical and Engineering News: https://cen.acs.org/articles/95/web/2017/10/Ronald-Breslow-dies-86.html

2. The New York Times: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=ronald-breslow&pid=187067788&fhid=2086

3. Columbia College: https://www.college.columbia.edu/news/columbia-college-mourns-loss-university-professor-ronald-breslow

 

In short, Breslow was a great man, who had an enthusiasm and hunger for knowledge EVERY. SINGLE. DAY of his life. When I was a graduate student in his group, he used to walk down the hall whistling (so we all knew he was coming), and then open the doors to the office and just start talking as he opened the door, because that is how excited he was about the science and the “nifty” (in his words) new ideas he was working on. I can only wish for a fraction of that enthusiasm, excitement, and quest for knowledge when I get to be older. Heck, I wish I had that consistent level of enthusiasm now!

 

At the memorial service on Sunday, family members spoke about how curious Breslow was as a child, teenager, and college student, and how that curiosity sometimes made for sticky situations (but really funny anecdotes), and I got to wondering: How do we help our children, teenagers, and college students stay curious and engaged as long as they can? They are not going to be as curious and brilliant as Breslow, most likely, but there is still quite a bit of curiosity in every child, and much less of that in every adult.

 

Here I would say, we need more hands-on activities in the school system, in science (obviously) but also in math, social studies, history, language arts, and everything. All the research indicates that hands-on learning works best for children, and for people, of all ages and in all areas. If we are parents, we need to encourage our children to stay curious. When my kids tell me something, I often ask in return, “How do you know?” “Why do you think that?” “What do you think would happen if….?”, oftentimes followed by “Let’s try it!” This is probably why my house is such a mess ALL. THE. TIME., but it is hopefully also how we are raising scientists, engineers, and curious problem-solving small people. 

 

What techniques do you use to keep children curious? Share thoughts in the comments section below!

 

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