A new face in Spencer

The new sewanee professor

Photo courtesy of sewanee.edu

By Kurt Delay

Staff writer

Hushed whispers in the corridors of Spencer Hall have for months rumored of new faculty in the chemistry department, an area that has not seen change like this in some time. As of this advent semester, the rumors have been confirmed; Sewanee’s beloved chemistry department has opened its arms to welcome another into its prestigious ranks: Dr. Matthew Sanderson.

Sanderson specializes in organometallic chemistry. He earned his PhD from Dartmouth earlier this year, having previously earned his B.S. from Abilene Christian University in 2001 and his M.A. in 2007 from the University of Texas at Austin. This is his first year teaching at Sewanee. Previously, he was a high school chemistry teacher who taught middle school earth science as well.

He was attracted to Sewanee initially by its size and intimacy. In his college search, Sanderson primarily sought out schools with attractive surroundings and promising opportunities for forming bonds with students and personally guiding them through the various challenges that the field of chemistry throws their way. “You can really make a difference when you can get to know somebody,” Sanderson says, and that’s exactly what he plans to do with his time here. On his transition from teaching high school to college students, Sanders insists that, though he “liked teaching high school…and the kids that [he] taught,” he “wouldn’t necessarily go back to it.” For Sanderson, teaching high school was an opportunity to grow as a teacher as well as guide his students and see them develop as young adults. He keeps in touch with several, finding comfort in learning about their lives as they venture out into the very same chapter of life he finds himself living on the other side of the lecture.

Outside of the classroom, Sanderson is an avid reader, delving into topics varying from science fiction to psychology to historical fiction. Most recently, Marilynne Robinson’s Giliad—“a novel about an American preacher in the civil war era”—caught his eye. In addition to reading, Sanderson also enjoys hiking. Though not necessarily an avid mountain climber, he finds casually strolling through the woods to be an excellent means of taking a break from the lab, unless, of course, he happens to be performing a “phosphorous NMR,” his favorite lab technique. As to what that exactly ask; he’d be happy to explain.

Above everything, Sanderson is most excited for the relationships he hopes to develop this semester. For him, they are “the real reason anybody gets in this game…to meet people and to find out what they’re interested in… Any time you teach,” he says, “it’s always about the people that you’re teaching.” A little miscellaneous information about Sanderson: he has yet to discern a favorite line in McClurg, though he leans heavily towards the salad bar—he has yet to discover the omelet line. Additionally, he has never seen a ghost, prefers Dr. Pepper to Pepsi and Coke, and listens primarily to the older works of The Avett Brothers. Between voting for Kanye West or Donald Trump, Sanderson leans more towards applying for dual citizenship, should he ever need to circumvent the decision by means of defecting. He bears no aversion to gluten, and encourages all nonscience majors to take a class in chemistry, especially if it concerns the science of cooking. His favorite chemistry joke, unfortunately, is not appropriate to be published in a newspaper.