Finding God in the Chemistry Lab

by Mags Blackie

chemistry lab equipmentI remember standing in an organometallic chemistry laboratory in Cape Town, South Africa. I was dressed in a white lab coat and safety glasses and surrounded by glassware and lab equipment. The persistent hum of the fume hood was overlaid by the chatter of a cheap radio. In my left hand I held a small glass sample vial which contained a hundred milligrams or so of a white crystalline material.

In that vial I held the only sample of a wholly new molecule. A molecule which, up until a day or so earlier, had not existed anywhere in our universe (or quite probably didn’t!). This molecule was one that I had made from simple starting materials. I had the analytical data to prove I had indeed made what I had set to—I created something new!

As a child I had favored science and mathematics over art. I hadn’t believed that I was creative. And yet, in that moment, I discovered that even scientists can be creative. It may not have the obvious aesthetic appeal of artistic works, but there is something quite beautiful in the art of chemical synthesis.

Since I am a scientist and a spiritual director, people are often curious about how I hold the two together. I have many different answers, but this moment is one of my favorites. I discovered my creativity as a human being in a chemistry laboratory—if that isn’t an example of finding God in all things, I am not quite sure what is!

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Mags Blackie

Blogs at Mags Blackie
Mags Blackie, PhD, is an academic at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and a part-time spiritual director. She holds a faculty position in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science and is a research associate in the Faculty of Theology.

Latest posts by Mags Blackie (see all)

May 5, 2014

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Santina Virgilio May 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Thank you to share this site and message ,
With many things in life its as discovery and explanation,
That the aspect of the entire aspect is clearly about majorly ,
In science , wherein everything is spiritual God , & sciences
Thanks Santina v
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Angie M May 5, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Every human being is creative – whether that is stifled or encouraged depends on early upbringing, environment, experiences – but still, to the end of our lives, somewhere inside us is that creative spark.

The art is to find that creativity in all the places our lives touch – and in some of the more unusual places, it gives us pause to think. Especially in a lab, scientific or technical, we should be moved to a kind of reverence – at least I am – we are in our poor way imitating our Creator – are we not?

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