[MSA-talk] early mineralogy interest

Daniel Hummer dhummer at epss.ucla.edu
Thu May 8 18:17:58 EDT 2014

Hi Chris and folks,

My story is a little unusual. I was not one of the kids that grew up 
hunting for rocks in his backyard - I was fascinated by chemistry from 
an early age, and established a lab in my family's basement in which I 
did all kinds of experiments using the chemistry set I had been given 
one Christmas. (The following Christmas Eve, when my lab was too 
cluttered, I wound up producing pure bromine at the kitchen table and 
nearly poisoned my entire family, but that's a different story.)

Entering high school, though I had interest in a number of sciences, I 
decided I wanted to be a chemist. I joined the Science Olympiad team (a 
great extracurricular activity for young science enthusiasts that I now 
volunteer with), and asked my coach to be in the chemistry related 
events. She put me in two chemistry related events, but also put me in 
an event called "Rocks, minerals, and fossils" which, it may shock some 
on this listserve to know, I actually hated. I viewed it as a pointless 
memorization of rock and mineral names and asked my coach to put me in a 
different event, but she insisted that students should be exposed to 
different sciences.... a decision that altered the entire course of my life.

Soon after, we began having weekly practices with a grad student at Iowa 
State. We examined specimens from the collection at the university and 
learned their chemical compositions and properties. Before long, it 
dawned on me that the elemental composition and atomic arrangement of 
each mineral governed all the properties we were learning about, and I 
saw patterns that I had never seen before. The more I learned the more 
excited I became, and by the end of the school year, I was begging my 
coach to put me in "Rocks, minerals and fossils" for next year's team. I 
vowed to learn everything I could about the chemical composition of the 
earth and the variety of minerals it contained.

I entered college as just a chemistry major. My first year of college, 
after taking a mineralogy course from the geology department and falling 
in love with not only mineralogy but aspects of traditional geology as 
well, I decided to add geology as a major. Fifteen years later, here I 
am. I look back on my path to mineralogy and geology as a reminder that 
teachers and coaches play a massive role in shaping people's lives... 
but I suppose the mineral collection at Iowa State had a hand in my 
story as well.


Daniel R Hummer
Postdoctoral Scholar, Mineralogy and Crystallography
Department of Earth and Space Sciences
University of California, Los Angeles
dhummer at epss.ucla.edu
Phone: (814) 321-8859
Fax: (310) 825-2779

On 5/7/2014 1:17 PM, Chris Tacker wrote:
> Hello, group,
> I'm interested in what influenced many of you to become interested
> in mineralogy.
> Pink feldspar gravel roads in the Black Hills of
> South Dakota caught my interest, as well as the exhibits at
> the South Dakota School of Mines. I had one of their
> mineral collections, sold with samples of uranium ore and asbestos.
> I was still interested in high school, then opted out of
> pre-med in chemistry for what eventually became geochemistry.
> Yes, I have an agenda: I'm interested in what role, if any,
> mineral exhibits and museums played in developing your interests.
> I'm interested in what moved you all into the "pipeline" and what
> I can do to move younger people in that direction.
> No, I won't use any personal stories without direct permission
> from you. And no, I won't hit you up for any money.
> Cheers,
> Chris Tacker
> R. Chris Tacker, Ph.D., P.G.
> Research Curator II in Geology
> North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
> Blogs:
> http://naturalsciencesresearch.wordpress.com/author/christacker/
> http://drsledge.wordpress.com/
> _______________________________________________
> MSA-talk mailing list
> MSA-talk at minlists.org
> http://lists.minlists.org/mailman/listinfo/msa-talk

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