DANBURY, Conn. — Forest Robertson has come a long way in the seven years since he earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Western Connecticut State University — as he brings all his academic achievements and experience home to Danbury this fall with his full-time appointment to join the university’s chemistry faculty.
“The Chemistry Department at Western is wonderful,” Robertson said. “My life has been influenced by so many faculty members at Western, and as a professor here I will be able to continue the work that they began in me. I hope to be the same kind of professor and provide inspiration to the next generation of chemists.”
Recipient in 2012 of a doctorate in chemistry from Dartmouth College, Robertson has gained recognition for ground-breaking research work that promises to provide more efficient laboratory tools to support the synthesis and identification of biologically active compounds of potential usefulness in treating a wide range of diseases. Working under the mentorship of Dartmouth chemistry professor Jimmy Wu, he completed his dissertation in 2012 investigating chemical processes that describe the formation of carbon-sulfur and related carbon bonds commonly found in pharmaceutical agents.
Robertson, a resident of Newtown, looks forward to continuing his research work in this field. His pursuit of research at Western also will provide opportunities for WCSU students to benefit from first-hand experience as assistants in his laboratory, in the same way that he learned practical lessons in the lab as a Western undergraduate.
“You learn best through experiential learning, when your research mentor gives you the freedom to make mistakes and determine what you did wrong so that you will never do it again,” Robertson said. “You’re going to make mistakes that cost you time and effort — but looking back, you come to understand that you have learned how to work effectively in the lab thanks to these great mentors and teachers who have given you knowledge to transfer down the road.”
Robertson recalled how the spark of his passion for chemistry was ignited by an 11th-grade chemistry course.
“This teacher always gave a simple demonstration during examples, and I still remember one lesson when she said, ‘Here I have a balloon filled with helium: Under certain conditions, I can tell you the exact number of helium atoms in this balloon.’ That was my ‘ah-hah’ moment when I said, ‘I’m going to be a chemist!’”
Robertson’s hope is that he will share some of the passion that inspired him to pursue a career in chemistry with his students, even those who expect to follow different interests when they enter the workforce.
“Chemistry is ubiquitous,” he remarked. “Legislation is being passed that involves chemistry; the press and the evening news report regularly on topics that deal with chemistry. If you do not have the basic scientific knowledge necessary to understand simple chemistry, you may believe almost anything that anyone tells you about these important subjects. Knowledge of chemistry enables you to be well informed, and to reach an informed opinion about what you are being told.”
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