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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Q&A: Exploring chemistry

Simon+North+was+recently+appointed+as+the+new+Head+of+the+Department+of+Chemistry.
Photo by Photo by Leah Kappayil

Simon North was recently appointed as the new Head of the Department of Chemistry.

Simon North is the head of the Chemistry Department at Texas A&M and Battalion science & technology reporter Barath Menon sat down with him to discuss his journey to A&M and his future plans for the Chemistry Department.
BATTALION: Can you describe your path to becoming a professor at A&M?

NORTH: I was born in Australia, but came over to the east coast of the U.S. when I was young. I came to College Station in 1997 and have remained here ever since. What attracted me to Texas A&M was the fact that it was a wonderful department, and I was impressed by the people that I met. I saw great potential for combining my interest in teaching and research [at Texas A&M].

I have taught at all levels in the university, and I have enjoyed all of those experiences. They are very different experiences — teaching freshmen chemistry has different challenges than teaching a small group of graduate students. It is nice to be at a place that enables me to teach at various levels of this subject. Recently, I have been teaching freshmen chemistry to our majors. I really do love teaching, and to me it is an important part of what it means to be a professor: research, teaching and service.

BATTALION: How did you get interested in chemistry?

NORTH: It is interesting. I was a music major, a jazz performance major who played acoustic bass. I was very interested in being a musician but I have always loved science. At some point in college, I decided to major in science and minor in music. The reason I chose chemistry was because the Chemistry Department was across the street from the music department. I could still practice and do science. Admittedly it is not very inspirational in terms of how I got started, but as soon as I took my first course in chemistry, I loved it and I have never regretted for an instance becoming a chemist. Because my father was a scientist, the idea of becoming a professor and doing research always seemed like a natural path for me.

BATTALION: What has been one of your more memorable experiences as a chemistry professor?

NORTH: There’s been so many. I would say that the thing that keeps me engaged is the joy of discovery and watching the joy of discovery in students — it’s something that keeps me engaged and excited. I remember the first time it happened for me as a student. When you are working on a project and you learn something that you’re pretty sure that no one else knows, the creation of new knowledge — that feeling is remarkable. And to see it in young people is tremendous. That is one of the main reasons why I am at this university: to guide students and share that moment. It’s just fantastic, and you see it with both undergraduates and graduates.

BATTALION: What are your plans for the Chemistry Department?

NORTH: It is a real honor to be able to serve my department in this way. I feel that the department and the university have been very good to me, and this is the chance for me to give back in some way. Our department is world class, a top-20 department nationally and a top-10 department amongst public institutions in the U.S. The challenge is not only how to maintain our top ranking but how do we move forward and improve. Progress is something that will take more than one person. My job is how to engage all the incredible people in our department and allow them to reach their full potential. If I can accomplish that, I know we will improve.

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