RI chemist still loves to teach in his 70s


Share
Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2012, 8:42 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By Anthony Watt, awatt@qconline.com
Though in his 70s, a chemist with Quad-Cities roots is still going strong.

David Wetzel, 77, formerly of Rock Island, is a professor at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., specializing in analytical chemistry, or developing ways to measure an item's physical properties.

Mr. Wetzel teaches and applies his expertise to agriculture, helping to improve wheat crops and working in other areas as well. He recently returned to Rock Island to give a guest lecture about his field to Augustana College students.

"I still work full time," he said. "I'm having a lot of fun."

The 1952 Rock Island High School graduate played football there.

"I was never very good, but it taught me never to be intimidated," he said.

He went on to Augustana and focused on chemistry -- something he said he began studying because of his sister's interest before finding his own passion for it.

He earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry at Augustana in 1956 before receiving a master's degree in analytical chemistry from Kansas State in 1962 and a doctorate degree in the same field from Kansas State in 1973.

Although he has been associated with several institutions of higher education, Mr. Wetzel said the quality of his Augustana experience stands out.

"I haven't found a higher standard than what I found at Augustana," he said.

Chemical analysis can be used to further developments in a number of fields, he said, from law enforcement to medical science. A version of a device he helped develop was used in an early Mars rovers, he said, to help search the planet for the potential for life.

He counts his work with students among his greatest accomplishments. He said teaching was something that, early on, he did not think he would want to do. Then he got a job teaching at a small school in the Chicago area. From then on, he said, he found it also to be a passion.

Mr. Wetzel said he enjoys watching his students mature and begin to ask intelligent questions.

"The most important thing with students is to develop their curiosity," he said.




BIOBOX

Name: David Wetzel.
Age: 77.
Job: Professor at Kansas State University.
Education: A bachelor's degree in chemistry at Augustana College in 1956. A master's degree in analytical chemistry from Kansas State University in 1962. A doctorate in analytical chemistry from Kansas State in 1973.
Family: Connie, his wife, and two adult sons -- Louis and Mark.
Tie to the Quad-Cities: formerly of Rock Island.
Advice for budding scientists: "Approach your teacher and ask for a part-time job doing something nonroutine. That's where the fun is."















 



Local events heading








  Today is Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural.
1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m..
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.







(More History)