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Nobel Inspiration
Since winning the Nobel Prize, Peter Agre has been keen on communicating the joy of discovery to Baltimore's students and teachers.

Pearls from the celebrated scientist fall to students visiting the East Baltimore campus.
Since winning the Nobel Prize, Peter Agre has been keen on communicating the joy of discovery to Baltimore’s students and teachers

He’s definitely cool,” said Charles Tannouri, a 15-year-old junior from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute who wants to be a physician.

“He didn’t set out to win the Nobel Prize or to make a great discovery,” said Nathan Linsenbardt, a sophomore at Mt. St. Joseph. “He wanted to be a doctor; this wasn’t what he expected.”

Charles and Nathan were among 94 top science students who came from area high schools to the School of Medicine in late April to hear Nobel laureate Peter Agre speak. Organized by the Graduate Division of Education at the School of Professional Studies and Business Education (SPSBE) as part of its ongoing outreach to local educators, the talk was one of several Agre has made to inspire and encourage students and teachers to pursue science with a passion. It drew students—most in special honors programs or advanced science classes—from about 10 schools, both public and private.

The professor of biological chemistry and medicine—his tie a whimsical chart of the elements, his manner, warm and approachable—reminisced about his school days and his sixth-grade science teacher, Mr. Hughes. “Everything Mr. Hughes did was hands on,” Agre recalled, emphasizing the importance of original investigation while relating an experiment involving nutrition and two rats, Stanley and Albert. “One was fed rat chow; the other, junk food. You can guess what happened.” Agre said some of his best early memories are of science experiments, not only in school but also under the guidance of his father, a college chemistry professor in Minnesota. “Teachers,” Agre told the audience, “are the real heroes.”

“He has an incredible commitment to teachers,” said Lissa Rotundo, who teaches at Poly. On this sunny April afternoon, Rotundo was accompanied by four students, including Charles, who had chosen to miss the annual Spirit Day celebration at their school in order to hear Agre’s speech.

One of Agre’s ancillary messages, that science is all around us and that a science backgound can contribute to a wide range of professional pursuits, caught the attention of Tiara Hines, a 10th grade chemistry honors student from Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School. “To tell you the truth, I’m more interested in cooking,” Tiara said. “But there’s a relationship to chemistry. I like what he said about science being part of daily life.”

“We’ve received so much positive feedback from these presentations,” says James Campbell, outreach coordinator for the Graduate Division of Education. Agre, he adds, has a special affinity for teachers in the troubled Baltimore City Schools and is committed to using his celebrity to inspire them as well as to show young people how rigorous work, study and even a little serendipity can lead to the joy of discovery.

Martha Thomas



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