A Kind of Stuck
On Hunkering Down

Throwback Thursday: Good Chemistry

Last weekend, Tom and I quietly acknowledged a very special anniversary.


January 3 marked 30 years since the defense of Tom's PhD dissertation.  

That's his published dissertation, there on our bookshelves, between Principles and Applications of Organotransition Metal Chemistry and Advanced Organic Chemistry.

Tom's Dissertation Cover Page - Jan 7, 2015, 12-10 PM

On the one hand, it's so . . . unfathomable . . . to me that so much time has passed.  (Because I remember that time of our lives so vividly.)  But, on the other hand, it's not so unbelieveable after all.  (Because so much has happened since then.)

I actually didn't take any photos of Tom on that incredible, pinnacle of a day.  (And I did a lot of photo-documenting even then.  I just didn't do it very well . . . with my little Instamatic.)  But here are some throwback shots from that time in our lives.

Here's a (really bad) shot of Tom and one of his fellow students (now a chemistry professor himself) in the lab.

Tom in lab

Grad school . . . four-and-a-half years went by in a blur (although it was often a total slog) . . . coursework, TA-ing, cumulative exams, the dreaded "orals", hours-upon-hours (upon hours) in the lab.

Finally, when his boss agreed that he was "ready," the writing-up began in earnest.

Hard at work

They gave Tom an unused office in the chemistry building for him to use while writing up.  When looking back at this photo of Tom, hard at work, in "Thesis Headquarters" (as we called it), the first thing to notice . . . no computer!

Right.  Back in late 1984, PCs were not in general use yet.  No one we knew had one -- not even the university professors.  

Tom wrote his dissertation by hand on legal pads.

And his loving wife quit her day job to type it up -- on a word processor (really just a standard electric typewriter with a baby screen and a bit of memory)!

(And we're still married!)

(I also drew all the chemical structures in the dissertation - and there were MANY! - using stencils and drafting tools.  And lots of white out.  This was before any of the computer drawing programs were available.)  (Stone age, I'm telling you.) (And you can see that the typing was no picnic either.)


Drawings - Jan 8, 2015, 8-05 AM(I can't begin to explain how much work this all was.  Not only the intellectual work of doing the research and writing the dissertation . . . but also the emotional work of believing in yourself and pushing through.)

We "staged" this picture when Tom found this description of "the prototypical grad student" in CSU's student newspaper one day while he was writing up.

Prototypical grad student

(And he did subsist on caffeine and alcohol.  And a lot of pizza, as I recall.)

So.  Here we are, 30 years later.

Congratulations to my Palladium Mediated Mad Scientist.  WELL DONE!



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That brought tears to my eyes. Here's to ya Doc.


Well-deserved congratulations to Tom...and you! I struggled through this same process with my husband, and understand far too well how much work this was. I didn't have to draw chemical structures (yours are beautiful!) but did get to perfuse rat livers and type [ethyl-1-3H]parathion and diethyl 4-nitrophenyl phosphorothioate way too many times.

Having a PhD-candidate son (at CSU!), I can report that the prototypical grad student has not changed one bit in 30 years, except now they don't tuck in their shirts!


What a great throwback! It seems to be the paradoxical nature of time. It passes quickly and slowly all at once.


Kudos to Tom. Chemistry was the class that made me empathetic about how the dumb kids feel smile. Your description of the process, yellow pads, primitive word processsor and white out sure brought back a flood of memories. The commitment that both of you made to the process of earning a PhD is admirable!


Amazing that only 30 years ago was the stone ages of technology. Tom's doctorate proves just how awesome you are!!


My thirty year old nephew got his PhD in Chemistry from CSU at Fort Collins three years ago! Congrats to Tom & you for all that hard work!


This is a fantastic blog post - I love that you shared this story with us. What an overwhelming and wonderful time in your lives this must have been. And it was a project you both worked on which is truly amazing. I remember well the days of writing papers without computers. When we were seniors my friend Chrissie got an Apple IIe and it was crazy expensive and such a big deal! I still wrote my papers out longhand and then used her word processor to type them. We've sure come a long way since then!


HOW COOL! congratulations to you both!! (It must've been really hard to type - it looks like a foreign language to me ;-)


Congratulations to Tom but maybe even more so to you! Job well done.
BTW...Tom looks like a teenager. :)

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