Staff Sergeant Edward Distance
Why did you choose Chemistry?
Chemistry has always the most interesting science for me. I grew up reading fantasy books about wizards and sorcerers using alchemy to make elixirs. Historically, through the quest of alchemy, chemistry emerged first out of all the sciences. As a lover of fantasy and sci-fi books, chemistry held all the answers to life that questioned me as a child. When offered the chance to take AP Chemistry in high school, I jumped at the opportunity and never looked back.
What is your “typical” day like outside of the classroom?
Outside the classroom, I still have my duties as an active duty non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the United States Army. I am still tasked with conducting airborne operations, which means every so often, I am required to jump from an airplane to maintain my airborne status. I still help my soldiers prepare for upcoming deployments and briefings to the commander. Since, I do not conduct physical training with my company in the morning, I have a personal trainer to ensure I maintain physically fit. And finally, I spend a lot of time studying and completing my assigned homework.
How will a degree in Chemistry help you advance professionally?
When I finish my chemistry degree, I will have several opportunities to become a commissioned officer in the Unites States Army. The options before me would be the Green-to-Gold Program, Officer Candidate School, or a Medical Officer. The Green-to-Gold program will allow me 2 years to complete another degree of my choosing and at the college of my choice. Officer Candidate School will allow me to commission after a rigorous 12-week course. Lastly, Interservice Physician Assistant Program will allow me to commission and work on research programs for the Department of Defense. My chemistry degree will definitely not collect dust on a shelf.
How has your professional background affected your current academic experience and what advice would you give today’s students?
Unfortunately, I have become set in the military style of learning and training. We are taught a tactic or technique and then immediately evaluated on our ability to mimic that training. My grades initially suffered until I realized my professors wanted me to take the lectures to the next logical step during examinations. I would encourage future students to continue to push the boundaries of our field and progress further than their education. We are standing on the shoulders of giants and the next generation should be standing on ours.
The biggest challenge in returning to finish my degree has been the age disparity between current students and myself. I had a huge learning curve to overcome to reach their level of intellectual prowess again.
The potential impact of science on the military is unlimited. In just one example, science allows soldiers to provide humanitarian aid in the form of food and sanitary conditions to impoverished areas around the world.
In one word, my experience at NC State has been amazing!