Faculty Spotlight: Mark Seger

For a man that needs no introduction, Dr. Mark Seger is perhaps the most well-known professor on campus. Most students, whether fond of the doctor or not, have experienced his unique teaching style and command a great respect for him. Seger has potentially taught the most students on campus at least once, attributing to his impact on the Mines community as a whole.

Since his early childhood, Seger seemed destined for a career in chemistry. Despite his non-destructive tendencies, Seger remarks that he “was indeed a pyromaniac as a kid.” His penchant for flames was fueled by curiosity of the natural world and the idea that a mixture of chemicals could make gunpowder or colored flames fascinated Seger’s younger self. What truly separated Seger from most youths, however, was his desire to ask the “why” questions. He considered himself “a born scientist” for that exact reason.

Seger moved on to getting his bachelor’s at the University of California at Riverside where he finally decided that he wanted to be a chemist. He recalled that during the first few weeks of a sophomore core class was when he made up his mind. Seger then furthered his education by getting a doctorate at CSU.

At this point, Seger entered industry, a unique experience among the other chemistry professors. He worked at two big name companies, including Kaiser, where he specialized in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR). Here he played the “eyes and ears” for the other workers, and using NMR, Seger would identify atoms and molecular compounds that were being made. Seger compared this to detective’s work, since there is no truly exact way to go about identifying molecules. One instead has to gather information around the identity of the molecule and figure it out from there.

The only thing he loved more than doing this chemistry, however, is talking about chemistry, as most of his students know. Seger eventually moved into education, working his way through local colleges until finally joining the Mines family.

Although he remarked that he is not being paid nearly as much as he used to, Seger said, “When you see that light bulb go off over that student’s head, that is just a wonderful experience.” The joy he receives from teaching is quite apparent. Any student that has taken his class can tell you that Seger has energetic lectures. He makes grandiose motions with his arms to get a major point across before returning to his chalkboard, ready to continue writing down a lecture he has memorized. As he walks through the room he takes special care to make eye contact, giving one the feeling of being in a small study group rather than a crowded lecture hall.

When the chalkboard is not enough, Seger pulls out his equipment and performs a demonstration or shares a piece of interesting trivia. The active demonstrations help convey the abstract concepts of chemistry to the concrete-minded engineering student. Seger believes that this will entertain the portion of his class that has a strong chemistry background while still providing a challenge to his students that are less familiar with chemistry. In this way, all students benefit from attending his lectures,as he makes them think outside the box.

Seger currently has dual citizenship in the United States and Liechtenstein, which is home to most of his family. Having a chance to live in the Alps, Seger is only home when he is around mountains. During his free time, Seger loves to hike, and when weather permits, hit up the mountains on his skis. He is also an avid reader, averaging anywhere between 100 and 200 books per year. Seger is an engaging conversationalist, welcoming anyone to share discussions during his office hours. Any time shared with this doctor is time well spent.

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