Friday, July 17, 2009

Challenge #2: Interviews

So, I decided to take on another challenge. I interviewed Dr. H.M. “Skip” Kingston and Dr. Mitch Johnson.

Dr. Kingston grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He went to a high school called Central Dolphin, in the suburbs of Harrisburg. He said that high school was very difficult because in 11th grade, he was diagnosed with acute dyslexia. He told me that he always knew he wanted to go in to the chemistry field, but he said his first professor was a great influence on his career. After he took analytical chemistry, when going for his bachelor’s degree, he fell in love with the subject. Dr. Kingston said that undergrad school was fun, and challenging. He went to the military, Harrisburg Community College, Millersville, and attended IUP to be his grandmother’s nurse while finishing his master’s and bachelor’s. He said that grad school was even better, and he mentioned that he was a dual major. He earned 2 PhDs, in Analytical and Biological Chemistry and Environmental Science and Management. He believes that he succeeded purely because he loves what he does. His wife diagnosed him with ‘terminal curiosity.’ He said that a successful scientist is willing to put in hard work, must have discipline, and the desire to seek answers. When I asked him about regrets, he told me he regretted something that wasn’t really under his control. He said he regretted not being diagnosed with dyslexia sooner, because he thinks that it would’ve helped him in high school. He told me that he needed to know why he was different, and being diagnosed helped him cope. He said that his biggest accomplishment was getting the Radon Laws to be passed. He worked on it for 18 months before they were passed by Congress. Apparently, they save 45,000 people from bronchial cancer every year. Finally, I asked him what his biggest personal reward he got out of his career and he said, “Watching my students succeed.”

Dr. Johnson was raised in Racing, Wisconsin. He attended Racing Lutheran High School. He said that high school was alright and that he had some decent teachers. Dr. Johnson told me that he went to school for architectural drafting, but it wasn’t what he was expecting, so he changed his major to something he had more of a knack for. Undergrad school, he said, was fun, considering he went to the University of Miami. He told me that grad school was purely chemistry and close related things. He said that he made a bunch of close friends, and that everything got harder as he moved on. I asked him about success and he said, “It depends on what you mean by success. Money doesn’t always mean you’re successful.” He thinks he succeeded because he is willing to do the hard work. He believes that a career should be something you stick with, something you’re going to do for your life, not just something to do for money. “You have to ask yourself, are you truly happy doing this?” I asked Dr. Johnson what his biggest regret, and he told me, “No regrets. None at all. You make your choices and you have to live with them.” When I asked Mitch what his biggest accomplishment, it tied in with his biggest personal goal. He said that when he mentors grad students, and watches them grow as they learn, it’s very satisfying. “It’s nice to see the difference that you’ve made in these kids.”

When interviewing these professors, they both said success results from some related things; hard work, discipline, passion, commitment, dedication, and a good work ethic. It’s so cliché, but it’s something that I will take with me for the rest of my life. They also had some of the same personal satisfactions. They both said that they love to watch their students succeed. I think that is a great quality for a professor, or any teacher for that matter, to have. Knowing a teacher cares about you and your future is an incredible thought. Duquesne is pretty amazing, and their professors are too.

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