by Bonnie Cole
Dr. Brent Iverson manages his own lab, is the department chair for the Biochemistry and Chemistry Department, and is a distinguished teaching professor of organic chemistry. All of these responsibilities tie into his love for chemistry, but what first drew him to chemistry? It wasn’t what happened in the classroom, but instead what happened in the lab. The summer after his first year at Stanford, Dr. Iverson was able to be a lab assistant in an organic chemistry lab. He was discovering why hemoglobin is such an efficient molecule for transferring oxygen. But what really captured his attention was how the possibilities of research were endless, and he wanted to explore this more.
Fast forward to now and Dr. Iverson is a very successful scientist, but what keeps him motivated? And how does he handle all of these responsibilities? In his own words, Dr. Iverson states that he is always pushing back frontiers, and always doing something new every semester. He says that the things he does are things worth doing, and this is what keeps up his motivation. As for how he manages it all, he says that he not only prioritizes well, but also surrounds himself by hardworking people. He also states that he does have to define limits and be firm with these limits.
Dr. Iverson also has advice for freshmen, and other students in general. First of all, he advises students to be aggressive at trying to figure out what they are interested in by exploring different interests. Second, Dr. Iverson has a specific method he used to study for all of his classes, and he advises other students to use the same technique. This method is to create “outlines” of class notes every weekend. Essentially, the outlines (3 to 4 pages) would be, if allowed, the “cheat sheets” for the exams for that class. Dr. Iverson feels that the reason why rewriting the notes this way was so important for him was because it allowed him to rewrite the notes in his own words. He believes this process really helps with actually learning things and being able to further understand the material, as opposed to just memorization. This process also helped him quickly identify what he didn’t understand. Dr. Iverson says that he encourages his own students who take his course to follow this method, but this is a useful technique for other classes as well.
Overall, Dr. Iverson is an excellent role model and we would do well to follow his advice. One last question that was asked of him was what the happiest moment in his career has been. He stated it was when he was walking through his Ph.D. graduation with his wife and his five-month-old daughter.