RI chemist still loves to teach in his 70s


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Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2012, 8:42 pm
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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."













 



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  Today is Saturday, April 19, the 109th day of 2014. There are 256 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Miss McCorkindale has opened millinery rooms over Gimbel's dry goods store, where she offers a choice lot of millinery goods, which she will manufacture to order.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The little South Park Presbyterian chapel celebrated it first Easter decorated with flowers for an afternoon worship service attended by a large congregation.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Wennerberg Chorus of Augustana College has returned from a 2,000-mile tour in the Eastern states and Illinois.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Col. Charles Lindbergh has stated that he is convinced that Germany's air force is equal to the combined sky fleets of her potential European foes.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Small gas motors may be permitted on boats in the lake to be built in Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. The prospect was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The annual Dispatch/Rock Island Argus Spelling Bee continues to be a family tradition. Ed Lee, an eighth-grader at John Deere Junior High School, Moline, is the 1989 spelling bee champion from among 49 top spellers in Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties. He advances to the competition in Washington, D.C. Runnerup was Ed's sister, Susan.






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