5 Things About Me: Biochemist Harold (Hal) White
50-year member of AAAS
University of Delaware
Background: I am a professor of biochemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Delaware, where I teach biochemistry, intermediary metabolism, biochemical evolution, and pedagogy courses for graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants.
Question 1: Share a story from your past that led to your choosing your field of work.
Answer: Growing up, I was always interested broadly in science and math. As a high school student, I considered entomology as a career, but a geologist who had an avocational interest in insects told me to keep it a hobby and to pursue the most difficult subjects I enjoyed. Liking biology and chemistry led me to choose biochemistry as a career and I have remained an amateur entomologist ever since.
Question 2: What are you most proud of in your work?
Answer: While I had a rewarding research career studying protein structure, function, and evolution with attention on vitamin-binding proteins, I am most proud of my work in education. Over the past two decades, my interest in undergraduate science education has become my passion as I have moved from a “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side.” In particular, I have promoted and practiced problem-based learning and other active-learning strategies in the classroom with the goal of stimulating attitudes of inquiry. Being director of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Science Education grant since 1998 has contributed to a vigorous undergraduate research program and involvement of underrepresented groups in science.
Question 3: What fuels your passion for your work?
Answer: I love working with students and seeing them develop into self-confident adults who can think critically. I always liked research, but I find teaching even more gratifying. Few things compare to the emotional high that comes from an unexpected e-mail sent a by former student who just wants to tell you how important you were in his or her life.
Question 4: Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.
Answer: As indicated above, I have been an amateur entomologist longer than I have been a biochemist and educator. In 2011, that passion resulted in a book, “Natural History of Delmarva Dragonflies and Damselflies.” Rather than being a field guide, this book uses each of the 129 species as a prompt for a short essay on a wide range of topics.
Question 5: Tell us a short story about your childhood
Answer: As a 50-year member of AAAS, someone jokingly asked me if I joined when I was in elementary school. As it turns out, I did join at a relatively early age, but not that early. It was as a high school senior.