Chemistry and the fingerprints of God: How new chemistry professor found SAU
By Caralyn Geyer
For college students, it can be typical to wonder, “How in the world did I get here?” Many students question life and seek answers to thought-provoking questions, searching for purpose and meaning throughout those first few years. It can leave many students asking themselves, “Does anyone else feel the way that I do?”
Michael Nydegger asked himself these same questions as a college student at Southwest State University in Minnesota. Looking back, he said he never would have pictured himself where he is today as an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Spring Arbor University (SAU). He started his higher education by getting a Bachelor’s degree at Southwest State University, though he did not pick chemistry as a major until his junior year.
“They forced me to pick a major, so I picked chemistry so I could still finish in four years,” Nydegger said.
Nydegger particularly liked physical chemistry, and took many courses in this area his senior year of college. He was also good at math, so a chemistry major seemed like a logical choice to him. His parents also inspired him to pursue chemistry because of each of their differing beliefs concerning evolution and creation.
He continued in his schooling to get a Master’s degree from the University of Nebraska and did his doctoral work at the University of Iowa, focusing on New Probes for 2DIR Spectroscopy for his dissertation. According to NASA, spectroscopy is a scientific measurement technique that measures light emitted, absorbed or scattered by materials, which is then used to study, identify and quantify those materials.
After his schooling, Nydegger began his teaching career by working at community colleges, which eventually led to his job at SAU. Nydegger said he had never wanted to teach at a Christian school before coming to SAU because he wanted to share the gospel with people who have not heard it. But his friends encouraged him to apply to Christian universities, so he decided to apply to SAU.
“[My friends] offered a new perspective and thought that maybe this is where I should be,” Nydegger said.
After working at SAU so far, Nydegger said he enjoys the community the campus brings and feels like his co-workers are his family. Throughout his various classes, Nydegger said his goal is for his students to get outside their comfort zone within the framework of chemistry.
“I want [students] to see the fingerprints of God on the periodic table,” Nydegger said.
Stats and Facts
Favorite Class to Teach: CHEM200, because it is more detailed and the “fingerprints of God” are more visible.
Favorite Experiments: Ammonium fountains and esterification reactions.
Favorite Movies: “Jaws” and the “Lord of the Rings” series.
Hobbies: Trout fishing, hunting and traveling.
Something New: He’s trying out making maple syrup for the first time this year.
Something Interesting: He once saw a humpback whale from about twenty feet away while in a sixteen-foot boat.