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Try a new Friday routine

Barry McNamara
For many students, Friday afternoon has traditionally been a time to disconnect from five consecutive days of academic rigor.

For those interested in using that time period for enrichment, however, Monmouth College offers an excellent alternative – its faculty colloquium series.

Free and open to the public, the weekly series of talks is held on Fridays in the Barnes Electronic Classroom in Hewes Library. Complimentary refreshments are served starting at 4 p.m., with the talks beginning at 4:15 p.m.

“These talks are some of the best things our faculty do,” said Jane Jakoubek, MC’s vice president for institution-wide initiatives.

Physics professor Chris Fasano, who coordinates the program, agreed.

“The faculty colloquium series gives us the opportunity to learn many things. It is an example of the liberal arts experience – interested and interesting people joining together to learn from each other in diverse ways. While my discipline is physics, some of the most delightful colloquia for me are the ones that are far from my field, including talks on creating musical instruments and painting by art professors Brian Baugh and Tyler Hennings and a talk on labor history by history professor Simon Cordery. We are so fortunate to have such an active and vibrant faculty.”

For the remainder of the fall semester, three talks are scheduled. Associate professor of biology James Godde will present “Confessions of an Extremophile” on Nov. 19; associate professor chemistry Laura Moore will present “Exploration into Alternative Energy: Undergraduate Research at Monmouth” on Dec. 3; and assistant professor of political economy and commerce Keith Williams will present the Dec. 10 program.

In August, Godde led a group of MC biology and biochemistry majors on a two-week long, 5,000-mile journey to explore some of the most extreme environmental conditions in the country.

“We sampled these areas for the presence of extremophiles – organisms which thrive in such extreme living conditions,” said Godde. “We traveled to the Great Salt Lake in search of halophiles, to Yellowstone National Park in search of thermophiles, to California’s Mono Lake in search of alkalophiles, and finally to a gold mine in Colorado in search of acidophiles.”

During their travels, Godde taught the course “Environmental Microbiology” by leading discussion sessions in the observation car of the train.

“Reflecting back on this trip, I realize that we have a lot to learn from the extremophiles,” he said. “Further reflection revealed that I am actually an extremophile at heart. I will attempt to explain this assertion, in addition to describing some of the details of our journey as well as our subsequent research. I will end the talk by sharing some life lessons that I think we can all learn from these incredible microbes.”

Moore, who will also discuss work that she has done with students, explained their research involving alternative energy is ongoing. That research includes the alteration of bacteria so that they can be used to make biofuel, biodiesel production and analysis, and the construction of dye containing titanium dioxide solar cells.

“The last two topics were done with students who were here in August for the SOFIA (Summer Opportunities for Intellectual Activity) program, so I'll be talking a little about that too,” said Moore.