Thursday, July 3, 2014

Recipe for Joe's Microwave Peanut Butter Fudge and A Nobel Laureate's Awesome Talk

For this post, I am featuring the recipe emailed to me by one of my former students at Indiana Universty of Pennsylvania (IUP) more than 5 years ago.  His name is Joe.  He was one of a few adult students in a predominantly young class consisting of mostly 18 year old freshmen.  He brought to class a whole 13 x 9 pan of this delicious treat securely covered with foil and adeptly loaded it in his backpack together with his books to share with me.  Here is the exact emailed recipe for all of you:

Joe's Microwave Peanut Butter Fudge

Dr. Herold,

Here is the microwave peanut butter fudge recipe:

18 oz. jar of Jif peanut butter

3 sticks of Parkay margarine

2 lb. bag of powdered sugar

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Line a 13" X 9" cake pan with wax paper.

Put peanut butter and margarine in a large microwavable bowl and cook on high for two minutes.  Stir, then heat an additional two minutes or until completely melted.  Add vanilla and powdered sugar and mix thoroughly, pour into pan.  It is easier to cut it while it is still warm.

When I first made this, it did not have the same consistency as the one Joe brought to class.  The secret according to him is to use Parkay margarine and not butter. This was emphasized to him by the source of the recipe - a lady from the church he belonged to (or church lady but I am reluctant to use this term since it reminds of Dana Carvey's Saturday Night Live character on TV and I am sure Joe's friend from the church is not that outrageous). 

It is apparent that Joe was comfortable enough to bring me a whole pan of peanut butter bars or else he would not do so for fear of being accused of sucking up to me.  There are students in my class who achieve that level of relationship with me their teacher and I appreciate that since it helps in their learning and also my teaching.  Having this wonderful and fruitful rapport with some of his teachers have been cited by a Nobel Laureate I met in a recent meeting I attended to be one of the reasons for his success.

During the annual meeting of the Philippine American Academy of Science and Engineering (PAASE) held at North Carolina State University, May 23-24, 2014, we had the privilege and honor of having the 2007 Nobel Laureate in Medicine or Physiology, Dr. Oliver Smithies, as the main speaker for the event.  He won this honor with two other scientists for their "discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells".

Dr. Smithies gave one of the best talks I have ever heard in my life and I have listened to many including those of other Nobel Laureates in the past.  He craftily wove his life experiences with details of his research which would otherwise be boring to hear by themselves. 

He started his talk with the picture of where he grew up in England and regaled us with his stories of his childhood. 

He then went through persons who taught him from his grade school up to his graduate school years that had an impact on his education and life in general.

One of the most delightful and yet highly informative parts of his talk were the slides featuring his research notebook entries.  By using them he was able to cleverly and with a lot of humor brought in nuggets of wisdom and tips on how to conduct good research, develop strong work ethics, build up inner strength and make serendipitous discoveries along the way even deserving of a Nobel Prize.  It was an exposition of eloquence without being pompous or arrogant.  Awesome! 

This part of his talk on his research notebooks is very similar to the ones he covered in his Nobel Prize presentation and is worth listening to.  As he mentioned at the beginning of his Nobel Prize presentation  he was addressing particularly the young audience.  I am pretty sure that every person that day, young and old alike, got a lot from his presentation as we did in our recent meeting. 

One thing he always went back to in his talk at our meeting is his gratefulness to all who taught him especially those he developed a close and mutually productive student-teacher relationship with.   He himself believed in putting a hundred percent to teaching to the point he just did not do research when he taught classes.  He alternated semesters of teaching and research was how he was able to accomplish this.

His other message is to love what you are doing and he exemplifies that.  At 89 years old, he is still doing research and on topics he had not done before.  

It was one those talks that you feel so happy being there to hear it and even long after.  Thank you Dr. Smithies.  I would like to also thank all of the organizers of this PAASE meeting headed by Dr. Francis de los Reyes for making this possible.  Special thanks also to the host, North Carolina State University.  This meeting, we the attendees felt, was one of the best PAASE if not the best annual PAASE meeting we have gone to.

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