Chemistry Faculty in the News

Posted on: June 18, 2014

Professor Angela G. King

Professor Angela G. King

Kitchen Chemistry
Professor Angela G. King serves up answers on how science can make a better cook.

Bread that doesn’t rise. Gravy that won’t thicken. Scrambled eggs that stick to the pan. Most home cooks have been there. In our quest to determine what went wrong we questioned the recipe, the quality of our ingredients, the oven or even the weather.

But often what leads us down the path to burnt cookies and runny sauces is none of those things; it’s our lack of understanding about kitchen chemistry — what happens when we cook, and why. Basic knowledge about acids, bases, enzymes and molecules might mean the difference between our food fail and food fabulous. After all, there’s a reason they say baking is a science — and cooking is a scientific art.

Read More at Wake Forest Magazine

 

OUT OF THE BUBBLE AND INTO THE HIVE

Mark Welker; Photo by Chris Mackie

Mark Welker; Photo by Chris Mackie

William L. Poteat Professor of Chemistry Mark Welker knows his way around a lab, a classroom, an administrator’s office — and beehives. Welker, who joined the faculty in 1987 and has served Wake Forest as an associate provost from 2003-2010, took up beekeeping several years ago as a way to naturally pollinate his growing fruit orchard.

He keeps up to six honeybee hives in his back yard; family and friends reap the benefit of those busy bees, enjoying fresh honey that’s flavored differently, depending on the time of harvest. “Honey is interesting; it tastes like whatever the bees harvest,” says Welker. May’s is sweet and fruity; summer’s honey has a distinctive tulip poplar flavor; and fall’s is, well, musty-tasting thanks to goldenrod nectar.

Beekeeping’s benefits don’t come without risks. There are the stings, of which he’s had many (he keeps an epinephrine pen in the garage for visitors who might suffer allergic reactions). Cold weather is a threat, as are pesticides, and both can and have wiped out some of Welker’s hives. His faculty colleague, Reynolds Professor of Biology Susan Fahrbach, has helped him understand honeybee genetics and the quirks of their behavior. In summer, for example, bees may take a notion to abscond — they up and abandon the hive for no apparent reason.

But Welker is not deterred; he brought in new bees last spring and continues to appreciate their gifts; a thriving fruit orchard, daily honey that has helped him overcome an allergy problem, and the bee-pollinated fruit used in his wife Sandy’s homemade liqueurs. “We’re helping the bees, and I know they’re helping us,” he says.

 

Read More at Wake Forest Magazine