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."













 



Local events heading








  Today is Thursday, July 31, the 212th day of 2014. There are 153 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: A corps of surgeons now occupies the new hospital quarters at the Garrison Hospital on the Rock Island Arsenal. A fence has been installed to enclose the prison hospital.
1889 -- 125 years ago: B. Winter has let a contract to Christ Schreiner for a two story brick building with a double store front on the south side of 3rd Avenue just west of 17th Street. The estimated cost was $4,500.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Germany sent simultaneous ultimatums to Russia and France, demanding that Russia suspend mobilization within 12 hours and demanding that France inform Germany within 18 hours. In the case of war between Germany and Russia, France would remain neutral.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Civil service offices at the post office and the Rock Island Arsenal were swamped as more than 700 youths sought 15 machinist apprenticeships at the Arsenal.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Last night, American Legion Post 246 in Moline figuratively handed over the trousers to a female ex-Marine and petticoat rule began. Olga Swanson, of Moline, was installed as the first woman commander of the post .
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illinois Quad City Civic Center captured the excitement and interest of a convention of auditorium managers this weekend in Reno, Nev. Bill Adams, civic center authority chairman, said the 10,000-seat arena planned for downtown Moline has caught the eye of construction firms, suppliers, management teams and concession groups.








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