Use the Force!
In the late 1970s, there was a fad called “pyramid power.” The idea was to put a pyramid-shaped object in a place you thought required positive energy and, through some unknown force, it would give you extra insight or luck. Even the Toronto Maple Leafs tried it during the playoffs one year when Red Kelly was coach.
My second-year organic chemistry course had been very tough, and I knew I needed help if I was going to pass. I brought my molecular model kit to the final exam, but, instead of using the little tubes and connectors to build molecules, I designed myself a pyramid-shaped hat and put it on. Somehow, the pyramid conveyed special powers into my brain and I passed the exam. (And the hat looked very nice according to those around me.)
Not wanting to tempt fate, I gave the kit to a first-year student and avoided organic chemistry from then on.
BSc 1981 UTM
A Television First
After graduating from engineering in 1952, I got a summer job with General Electric installing audio transmission equipment at the new CBC station in Toronto. The TV station – Canada’s first – was scheduled to begin broadcasting that September.
When I had time to spare, I went over to the studios to watch rehearsals. One day, the CBC’s chief transmitter asked me why I was there. I explained that for the previous four years I’d worked on Skule Nite at U of T. He advised me to talk to the program director. “I bet he’d love to hire someone with your experience and interest.”
He was right. I started work as a dolly pusher, manoeuvring a cameraman and large camera around the studio floor. My first assignment was opening night of the live-action drama, “Call It a Day.” Everything went fine until the last scene when I heard the director yelling in my headphones, “There’s a ladder in the shot! Strike it!” That’s how I became the first technician to be seen on Canadian TV – carrying an aluminum ladder against a black drop outside the set’s bedroom window. I was almost ready to “call it a day” myself. But I didn’t – and stayed with CBC until 1965.
A Summer to Savour
I was finishing up my master’s degree in English in the spring of 1980. Jobs were scarce for graduates, so I accepted a position in book publishing before the term ended and tried to finish my papers while working full time. My hyperactive launch into a career was a spectacular failure that ended in me – normally an obedient citizen – simply not showing up to work two weeks after I started. I hid in my room at the graduate residence and even avoided my employer by putting on a British accent when he called.
But something else happened at the end of that term. After I apologized to my boss, resigned from the job and took an extension on my two remaining papers, I spent the summer playing softball on King’s College Circle with friends – an experience I almost missed, in my premature desire to be a grownup. I now remember it as the best summer of my life. It solidified friendships that are mine to this day and made me realize how human I was and how precious our time at U of T was.
And there was a better job waiting in September.
Barbara Wade Rose
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By bringing artificial intelligence into chemistry, Prof. Aspuru-Guzik aims to vastly shrink the time it takes to develop new drugs – and almost everything else