Monday, June 20, 2016

06.20.16 Fathers and daughters...and granddaughters

Sharing a love of learning early on
Not a day goes by that I don't think about my dad - this was our 4th Father's Day without him.  He didn't wear much jewelry - and what little he did, I've written about before.  He had a college ring, and some academic award keys - which he never wore, but I still have - and that seems like enough for this post-holiday blog entry.

Dad's Lamar ring

My father had degrees in electrical engineering, applied mathematics and a PhD in particle physics.  He acknowledged he would have stayed in school forever, except he and my mother had started a family - so he had to get a job! I know that he was proud of me - because he told me so.

Honor Keys
Sigma Pi Sigma physics honor society
Phi Kappa Phi honor society
I know he loved all of his grandchildren - he traveled to dance performances, baseball games, swim meets and birthday parties - and would tell anyone who would listen about their accomplishments. But oh, how I wish he could see his granddaughter now...because in so many more ways than I ever was, she is his child. He spent his career in academia and research, and while he went into physics, and my daughter is pursuing her degrees in biochemistry, they were kindred spirits in their love of science for science's sake.

1st Grade Science Project

One of my dad's mantras was always "it's not where you study, but what you learn." He didn't attend a large prestigious institution for his undergraduate degree - he got his start in Beaumont, Texas at what was then Lamar State Technical College (it is now Lamar University).

In June 1957 he received two Bachelor of Science degrees - in electrical engineering and mathematics; in August of that year he married my mother, and by September they had moved to Baton Rouge where he began working on his PhD in physics.

5th Grade Science Project
I asked him why he decided to study physics rather than going on in engineering - and he told me that studying how things work made him want to understand WHY they work...and that is, in a nutshell, what physics is all about.  He graduated - with honors - in 1963 and went on to have a long and distinguished career in particle physics - starting as a faculty member at the University of Houston, and retiring after serving as the Chief Scientist for the Superconducting Supercollider (as well as holding many other positions within the US Department of Energy along the way).

6th Grade Science Project
My daughter's love of science came early as well - encouraged by my dad, her dad and some really incredible teachers at her elementary school.  Unlike some kids (and families) who saw annual science fair projects as a chore - she loved them - and looked forward to them each year.

With Granddad
before her first Nutcracker
To be clear - my daughter, who now spends her summers in a biochemistry lab, working towards her own BS/MS degree with an eye to a PhD in the future - has earned every award, accolade and grade on her transcript...but she had a lot of encouragement along the way from Granddad.  Not only in her pursuit of science, but in everything she did.

Lab selfie

I only wish he were here to see her now.

Until next time.

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