March 19, 1999
Colloquium Speaker: Robert L. Wolke
Professor Robert L. Wolke received his B.S. in Chemistry from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1949 and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Chemistry from Cornell University in 1953. During 1953-56, he was a Research Associate at the University of Chicago and from 1957-60, an Assistant/Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Florida and concurrently Research Associate at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In 1960, Professor Wolke joined the University of Pittsburgh where he is currently a Professor Emeritus of Chemistry. At the University of Pittsburgh, he served as a Professor, Director and Dean and was also the founding Director of the Office of Faculty Development. During 1969-70, he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Puerto Rico and in 1973 he taught at the Universidad de Oriente, Venezuela under the sponsorship of U.S. Agency for International Development. Professor Wolke was the Academic Dean for Semester at Sea (1981-82), 100-day academic voyage around the world, Resident Fellow (1986) at the Camargo Foundation, Cassis, France, researching the History of French Science, and a consultant (1989) to USIA, Bangladesh for devising a system of higher education. Professor Wolke's copious publications extend far beyond his research in chemistry. His books include, Impact: Science on Society (1975), Chemistry Explained (1980) and What Einstein Didn't know-Scientific Answers to Everyday Questions (1997). He has published innumerable articles on food, science, travel, language and commentary in many nationally prominent newspapers and magazines. He received the Outstanding Educator of America Award in 1974-75 and the Golden Quill Award for Distinguished Achievement in Journalism in 1985. He is listed in the Who's Who in America, in American Men of Science and in the Guinness Book of World Records for the discovery of radioactive isotape with longest half-life. Since 1988, he has been the Principal, Communication Consultants, doing writing, editing and consulting. For the past year, he has been writing a column in the Food Section of the Washington Post entitled "Food 101".
In a light, non-technical way the speaker explains many of the physical and chemical phenomena that take place during cooking and food production, including such questions as why crackers have tiny holes, how they get corn syrup out of corn, whether the alcohol "burns off" when you cook with wine, why cooking eggs makes them hard but cooking potatoes make them soft, why evaporation cools, how defrosting trays work, and how "Salt Sense" can be pure salt and yet contain "less sodium". He will discuss some of the provocative aspects of explaining science to the public and will welcome questions for future columns.