Biochemistry students benefit from professor's artistic approach
By Kathryn Bennett
Karl Brandt has a doctorate in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has served as an associate dean for the College of Agriculture and the Graduate School at Purdue University.
Photo provided by Karl Brandt
Karl Brandt, professor of biochemistry, acts as Benjamin Franklin in the musical "1776." Brandt uses his love of literature and art to meet his students' learning needs.
But, he says, his favorite part about teaching is the freshmen. Brandt is a professor of biochemistry. He teaches BCHM 100: "Introduction to Biochemistry" as well as HONR 199A, "Malaria Science versus Disease," a bioethics course discussing public policy about malaria.
Brandt said he likes teaching introductory courses because he likes seeing freshmen embark on their college studies. "You have a little bit more impact on them, and they are still kind of feeling their way through the university, so they're a bit more uncertain," he said. "I just enjoy helping them get off to a good start."
Brandt enjoys helping freshmen understand the connectino among various classes. He tries to teach chemistry in his biochemistry courses so the students get a better idea of the relationship between the sciences.
During his early years at Purdue, Brandt conducted research on enzymes that use a derivative of riboflavin in their activity. Riboflavin, a vitamin found in meat, yogurt, cheeses and milk, assists in chemical reactions catalyzed by enzymes. Brandt said while his research wasn't "earth-shattering," it did have an impact on the scientific community. "It went counter to the ideas that were in the literature at the time; it kind of changed the way people look at those enzymes," he said.
Purdue is a special school because of the opportunities it presents to both students and instructors, Brandt said. "I was allowed to indulge my pleasure in teaching freshmen, sophomores, seniors and graduate students," he said. "Teaching is a great way to learn, as well as to help others learn."
Along with his scientific interests, Brandt enjoys artistic pursuits such as acting in musicals and singing in the Bach Chorale singers group. Although he has not taken the stage in about four years, Brandt said one of his favorite roles was Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof." He also played Benjamin Franklin in the musical "1776."
In addition, Brandt is an avid reader with a voracious appetite for literature. Brandt said he enjoys reading books about science, but he also is interested in history and politics. "There aren't many books I've read more than once, because there are so many books I haven't read at all," he said. "I'd hate to take time away from one I haven't encountered yet to read one a second or third time."
Brandt said the key to success at Purdue is dedicated study habits. He also said taking thorough notes is important, as well as doing all homework, even if it's not due for class credit. He also said students should not be intimidated by the many career options they face during their college years.
"I don't think I've ever had a plan for my life," he said. "I've been pickign between roads for 65 years, and so far I've had a lot of fun, so I figure that's not a bad position to be in. I never would have predicted I'd be here."