Professor Will Kerber, chemistry, didn't find his calling in some youthful test-tube-and-beaker set making steaming and foaming concoctions.
"It was more old-fashioned — a good high school chemistry teacher," says Kerber. "He inspired me to try chemistry when I went to college, and it was the right thing to do."
Kerber's aim at Bucknell is to try to do the same for current students — maybe not to help them create a new compound with amazing practical applications, but to take the first steps along the road.
"I do fundamental studies — methodologies to look at basic substances," he says. "I like to develop and experiment and then turn it over to the students."
Kerber's expertise is in metals chemistry, which he has lately combined with biology, looking at the distribution of metals in cells. In doing so, he says, he finds problems that are intellectually interesting, but may not have as an end something with natural-world practicality.
"I am interested mostly in how complicated systems work. It is what we call pure science," he says.
Kerber feels this approach is perfect for a place like Bucknell, where not every first-year student comes to a subject like chemistry with a vast amount of background.
"I think students can start in a lab without understanding all the details," he says. "I can teach them the mechanics, and then the theory comes when the experiments get more advanced.
"One of the advantages of Bucknell is its goal of having students get involved. The value in that is in the process, not necessarily in creating a product," he says.
Kerber finds himself refreshed every semester — new students present new opportunities to inspire.
"The important thing here is to look at questions that are unanswered and discover the path to finding those answers," he says. "At a liberal arts college, the goal is in pretty much all disciplines to move the state of the art forward."
Posted Sept. 29, 2017