Dr. Paul B. Savage, the recipient of the 2021 Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, delivered the forum to campus on Tuesday. He discussed some of the adventures and experiences he has had as a professor and researcher, and the concept that Heavenly Father has a great academic adventure planned for all of us.
“As a beginning and nervous assistant professor, I would have never dreamed of the opportunities I’ve had in chemistry, microbiology, immunology and drug development.”
One of these experiences was when Dr. Savage helped to discover ceragenins, which are synthetic molecules designed to kill bacteria. Working with a team, he was able to patent this discovery and then make ceragenins available to doctors, who coat patients' ventilator tubes with them, thus preventing bacteria from growing and exposing the patient to further infection.
“Through no worthiness of my own, I have felt guided and encouraged countless times as I have been swept into new areas of inquiry. These experiences have strengthened my faith that our Father lives, is aware of us, and that He gives purpose to our lives," Savage testified.
Savage discovered early on that in order to be an effective professor one must establish two motives for teaching: loving the students and having a strong conviction that the subject being taught is essential to their future success and well-being.
Recognizing that many students don't believe that understanding organic chemistry and chemical biology are essential for anything in their everyday life, Savage set out to prove to his audience that learning about these subjects will increase our understanding of our world and our bodies. He did so by first explaining that chemical processes are responsible for the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing.
“Learning about these things helps us understand and appreciate the world around us and how our bodies work,” Savage said. “And I am convinced that this understanding and appreciation adds to the joy that we can feel.”
Giving a small example of some of the material his students get to dive into deeper, Savage explained the differences between how smell and taste work. Smell is caused when small molecules from food or the environment are released in the air and then are caught by our nasal cavities.
Taste molecules are never released into the air — rather, they are in the foods we eat and the drinks we drink. Our taste buds recognize the different molecules, which leads to variating tastes.
“My students become ‘those people’ that, in response to someone saying, ‘this tastes like an apple,’ will say, 'it doesn’t taste like an apple; it smells like an apple; apple is a smell not a taste.'"
Savage believes that understanding how vital and interesting certain subjects are is what will open the door and allow us to have many incredible adventures as well.