Personal Chemistry

Grace Thornton Experience, Spring 2020

All the students who walk into Wanda Jones’ classroom are walking chemistry experiments — they just may not realize it yet.

“We live this kind of science all the time,” she said. “For instance, if you get sick, you take medicine.”

And that’s just one example — she’s got many. If you pump gas, Dalton’s law is involved. If you boil ramen noodles, you’re doing chemistry.

For Jones, the beauty of the University of Mobile’s small class size is that she can make all of these examples personal. On the first day of class, she has her students fill out a profile sheet so she can learn a little about their lives and what they’re majoring in. Then, as the semester goes on, she shows them how chemistry is a part of that.

“Chemistry really does touch your life, even if you aren’t majoring in it,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to be scared of it.”

Jones feels that way because she loves it. Earlier in life, she thought she wanted to be a lawyer, but then chemistry stole her heart.

“I had a knack for the sciences, and I loved chem- istry and understood it,” she said. “Not only that — I had great mentors.” For Jones, that mentorship was a vital component.

“It’s a huge deal to find mentors who can help you cultivate what is in you,” she said. “You should always find mentors, no matter what part of life you’re in.”

That’s what she tries to provide for the people in her life, too — a little guidance from someone who’s a few steps further down the road. She’s invested in raising her recently adopted sons, Ayden and Dylan, and when she’s at work at the University of Mobile, she is intentional about connecting with her students.

Marie “Callie” Taylor, a senior biology major at UM, said Jones is “one of the best chemistry teachers around” and was a big part of the reason she earned a chemistry minor. Olivia Moore, a junior pre-health biology major at UM, said Jones showed her how to apply chemistry in the real world.

“She is a great encouragement to all her students and is very approachable,” Moore said. “She makes the effort to get to know our lives outside of the classroom and wants us to excel in all aspects, not just chemistry.”

Approachable is exactly what Jones said she wants to be.

“I just want to show my students that I’m understanding, that I’ve sat in their chair and have been where they are,” she said. “I want them to know that I care about their success.”

Travis Hudson, a junior biology pre-med major, said he can tell she cares — it’s played a vital role in his life.

“She has helped me through Organic Chemistry, which has been the most difficult class of my college career,” he said. “She will drop everything to help a student in need and has been kind, generous and loving to her students. I’ve learned from her that, throughout your life, you will experience trouble, but keeping the attitude of Christ will be what makes the trials worth it.”

That’s the ultimate goal of all their studies, Jones said — to know Jesus and do the Lord’s work.

“They come to school to learn, and I encourage them to take that knowledge and go out and do good and help others,” she said. “When you do that, the blessing comes back to you in more ways than you can count.”

About the Author

Grace Thornton