Associate Professor of Chemistry Matthew Young is replacing Professor of Chemistry Mark Nussbaum as chemistry department chair. Matthew Young | Courtesy
Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Chem­istry Matthew Young is replacing Pro­fessor of Chem­istry Mark Nussbaum as chem­istry department chair.
Matthew Young | Courtesy

Those who don’t know him might rec­ognize Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Chem­istry Matthew Young as the pro­fessor who walks with his daughter across campus to preschool in the morning, often sporting a beard which rivals that of Pro­fessor of English Justin Jackson.

This year, Young also became the chair of the chem­istry department, and is helping develop the new chem­istry course that will be offered starting next semester as a part of the core cur­riculum.

Young, who joined the department in 2007, spe­cializes in physical chem­istry, which applies physics con­cepts to chemical systems.

He is also inter­ested in making inter­dis­ci­plinary con­nec­tions between chem­istry and other sub­jects. As an under­graduate student at Seattle Pacific Uni­versity, he found chem­istry inter­esting, but also studied phi­losophy.

“I was one of these people that when I came to college, I was inter­ested in a lot of dif­ferent things,” he said. “I was inter­ested in math, and I got really inter­ested in phi­losophy, and other things.”

Ulti­mately, he chose chem­istry, and went on to North­western Uni­versity where he earned a doc­torate degree in physical chem­istry.

Now as department chair, Young is inte­grating his interest for the liberal arts with his love for chem­istry as he helps develop the new core chem­istry class.

“My first goal for the department is to con­tinue the work toward making that an excellent course,” Young said. “It will have more context for the chem­istry ideas that we go over — we’re going to have more history, more con­nec­tions com­pared to Science 101.”

Pro­fessor of Chem­istry Mark Nussbaum, the former department chair of nine years, said Young will be an excellent teacher for the new course.

“He really does see chem­istry as an important part of an overall edu­cation for everyone,” Nussbaum said. “As he’s said, if you’re going to have a correct view of the world, then you need to under­stand some­thing about the physical nature of the world.”

Though Young found physical chem­istry classes dif­ficult course as an under­graduate student, he said he tries to make the material acces­sible for his stu­dents.

“I try not to make it any more com­pli­cated than it needs to be,” Young said. “We really focus on the central ideas, but a lot of it is dif­ficult subject matter. I try to make a lot of con­nec­tions to general chem­istry and physics. All we’re doing is taking these ideas a little bit further.”

He’s won the Emily Daugherty Award for Teaching Excel­lence, awarded annually by the college, and his stu­dents said they appre­ciate the effort he puts into teaching a dif­ficult subject.

“You can just tell that he pre­pares for his lec­tures very thor­oughly,” Senior Eva Tang said. “He is very intel­ligent, but he tries to think like what a student would think to make sure we’re getting it. It’s really hard and abstract some­times, but he’s very wel­coming of ques­tions.”

He also works with stu­dents on research projects. Tang, who worked with Young for her chem­istry research this past summer, said he helped her learn the back­ground infor­mation leading into the research and patiently answered her ques­tions, since she had not yet taken physical chem­istry.

“He explains things so well that now I feel like, ‘Oh, I think I get it, I get quantum mechanics,’ which is some­thing that I never thought I’d say,” Tang said.