A Treasured Artifact: My First Periodic TableOctober 31st, 2012
Sometimes it’s fun to look back and figure out how you got to where you are. When people ask me when it was I knew that I wanted to become a chemist, I always point back to when I was 15 and enrolled in AP Chemistry. The material was incredibly interesting, and my teacher posed questions to us unlike any other science teacher I’ve had. In addition to calculations, our homework problems had essay questions where we had to give thorough explanations in complete sentences. My friends and I would spend hours on the phone discussing things like Le Chatelier’s Principle and solvation effects in gory detail, then I’d hang up and spend the next hour writing paragraph after paragraph of explanation on sheet after sheet of college-ruled notebook paper. I have always enjoyed writing, and there was something especially satisfying about being able to think and explain instead of just crunching numbers. Dr. Liebermann also had us spend a lot of time in the lab doing all sorts of fun experiments, from precipitations of colored salts to the determination of the thickness of the copper coating on a penny. Chemistry has always appealed to me for its ability both to make stuff and solve problems/answer questions. Mathematicians and physicists don’t seem to get to make stuff as often as we do.
Anyway, the other day I was looking through some old photos and had to reconsider when, exactly, it was that I first fell in love with chemistry.
That poster of the periodic table has adorned my bedroom in my parents’ house since I was 9 or 10. Until I left for college, it was the last thing I saw at night and the first thing I saw every morning. My dad brought it back from the UK after a business trip; I believe it is a product of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
I must have cared deeply about the poster long before I had ever taken a class in chemistry. When my sister ransacked my room sometime in junior high school, she tore down the poster and ripped the hell out of it. Rather than put up something else, I took the time to mend the table and mount it on a foam board. You can see how the tape of my repair job has yellowed with age, but the table still hangs proudly in my old room as the first artifact of my chemical career. Today, you can buy similar posters for less than $20 on eBay, but I don’t think I’ll ever have the heart to throw my beloved, tattered one away.