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 Friday, Aug. 22, the 234th day of 2014. There are 131 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: The ferry boat, Rock Island, having been put in good order at the boat yard is now making her regular trips, much to the gratification of those who have to cross the river.
1889 -- 125 years ago: W.J. Gamble, for many years superintendent of the Moline & Rock Island railway, leased the Fourth Avenue Hotel and renovated and refurnished it throughout.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Pending the building of new public schools or additions to the present ones to provide adequate room for all the children, the board of education decided that pupils younger than 6 years old would not be accepted in Rock Island schools.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The fifth annual New Windsor Fair and Horse show, which has been delayed for two days because of unfavorable weather, got off to a new start last night. The parade was held this morning.
1964 -- 50 years ago: The Rock Island County Fair and Rodeo will celebrate its silver anniversary this year. The fair opens Tuesday and will run through Saturday and offers entertainment and activity for young and old.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Earl Hanson School, Rock Island, joins the Program to Assist Latch Key Student, which aids working parents. PALS is a before and after school program for grades 1-6 in certain Rock Island public and private schools.




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