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The professor’s room – Andrew Bonham

An occasional series that gets within the inner sanctums of academia – because clever people have interesting rooms.

By Cory Phare

July 5, 2017

Andrew Bonham in his office.

For Andrew Bonham, a lifelong love of chemistry began not in the laboratory, but the kitchen.

As a child, the associate professor and chair of the department of chemistry was fascinated with how the ingredients in his mother’s recipes would combine to make wholly different – and delicious – experiments.

More than a culinary curiosity, that element of intrigue is one of many fixings that now find their way into his office today.

1. I’m a biochemist by training. The DNA molecule was a gift from former professor Russell Cormier; I love it because this fundamental structure was only discovered in 1953 and shows that science isn’t static. The other models are of common substances we eat: sucralose, found in artificial sweeteners, and isohumulone, which gives that bitter flavor from the hops in that IPA we enjoy.

2. I got this “YAY!” sign from a farmers’ market in Boulder, and it pretty much sums up my approach to life. If you’re bored, that means you’re not looking hard enough for something to get excited about!

3. This “hat” is actually a model of a protein. Every fall in my courses, I host a chemistry and biochemistry costume contest; if students dress up, they get a little extra credit. It’s part of my commitment to help students think about chemistry as more than a dry, boring subject.

4. This style of art is called an Ensō and has many great Zen Buddhist conceptions. It’s how I try to view life – it’s not about doing epic things all the time, but knowing how to do something so well as to make it effortless. Understanding is going from a challenge to something you can do.

5. In my first year teaching at MSU Denver, I ended up teaching a lecture class in a lab space, and didn’t have a yardstick or pointer – but there was a leftover hammer from the construction crew! At the end of the semester, the students surprised me with this after seeing this professor swinging a hammer around all the time. The “hammer of tutelage” means a lot to me.

6. When my wife and I were in Hawaii, we made this souvenir volcanic rock on the big island: We stuck a broomstick into the lava, which burned out, but you can still see the impression. It’s a reminder that science gives us so much cool stuff in the world, like a molten rock pulled out of the ground.

7. My grandfather was in the Navy during Pearl Harbor and used this slide rule to do calculations as a naval officer for his unit and the ship. We all have phones that can do this in a fraction of a second now, but it’s humbling to think about important decisions being made manually. It’s a good reminder of how far we’ve come.

p.s. Calling all faculty and staff members…
Do you have an interesting office – and would you like to feature it in our series? Just email Cory Phare.

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