Teaching at Gettysburg College – Meet Professor Grzybowski

Having taught countless students for over 36 years, Professor Joseph Grzybowski imparts the LabJourneys blog at elementalreviews.com with some advice before his upcoming retirement in the spring of ’16. Professor Grzybowski currently resides as the G. Bowers and Louise Hook Mansdorfer Professor of Chemistry at Gettysburg College (Gettysburg, PA). He graciously shares a small snippet of his story and career advice about teaching at a small liberal arts college.

What is your current title and how long have you had this position? I am a Professor of Chemistry at Gettysburg College.  I have been teaching at Gettysburg College  since the fall of 1979.

Where did you grow up? What early influences help cultivate your interest in science? I grew up in Wilkes-Barre, PA during the early days of the space race. Every kid wanted to be an astronaut or if that didn’t work out, then a scientist. I was always interested in chemistry but my parents would never let me have a chemistry set because they viewed it as dangerous. Now I’ve got a really big chemistry set. Guess I had the last laugh on that one.

In regards to the space program and your generation how much of an impact do you think it had with influencing young kids towards studying science? I think the space race had a tremendous influence on young kids going into science. The first manned space flights caused everything to come to a halt. Everyone watched the broadcasts. I remember our teacher in grade school rolling a small TV into the classroom so that we could watch history being made. It was very exciting. Everyone wanted to be an astronaut or, when reality kicked in, be someone involved in this science stuff.

One of the many summer research group pictures through of the years. Picture courtesy of Professor G

One of the many summer research group pictures throughout the years. Picture courtesy of Professor G.

How did you know teaching at a small college was for you? I attended a small college in my hometown and really liked the small classes and faculty-student interactions. Teaching at Gettysburg has been a perfect blend of teaching and research for me.

For you what is the most rewarding aspect of teaching? What is the most challenging? The most rewarding aspect is interacting with the students in lab. Having them see the lecture concepts being applied in a real laboratory setting. This is especially true when they do research and make a compound that no one has ever made before…the world’s supply is right there in that vial.

The most challenging aspect of teaching is making a class a good experience for all of the students regardless of their background or interest in chemistry.

Our research informs us you have a knack for telling chemistry jokes? Can you share us one?

Your research is flawed!

Two atoms are walking down the street. One atom says to the other,”Hey! I think I lost an electron!” The other says, “Are you sure?” “Yes, I’m positive!”

Professor Grzybowksi wishes another newly minted graduate down the pathway of success. Picture courtesy of Professor G.

Professor Grzybowksi wishes another newly minted graduate down the pathway of success. Picture courtesy of Professor G.

What is the best advice that you ever received? Life is easy if you have the right tools.

Who were your role models? All of my teachers and mentors. If I had to choose one, I’d choose my post-doctoral advisor, Daryle Busch, who really helped me grow as a chemist. Interacting with him and his research group was a very exciting time for me as a scientist.

With retirement in the near horizon, what are the new challenges you plan to tackle? I would like to get something published in the New York Times….a Sunday crossword puzzle.



Dr. Blog

Dr. Blog holds a PhD in chemistry and draws on his years of industrial and life experience to offer honest career advice for the advancement of young scientists.