LITTLE DOSE OF MAGIC makes
UM's Garon Smith an outstanding chemistry professor and researcher.
In fact, Smith has an alter ego, G. Wiz, which stands for "Garon
the Wizard." This conjurer — dressed
in lordly gray robes and a pointy hat — is never far from
Smith's heart. G. Wiz appears almost daily before Smith's 650 University
chemistry students, and he volunteers in elementary classrooms
across Montana. His mission: make learning
admits most students call him G. Wiz instead of professor, and
his alter ego has made
one of UM's most popular teachers. In 2004 students named him
UM's Most Inspirational Teacher, and he won a national award
for Innovative Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Technology.
chemistry students are forestry, wildlife biology and health-care
majors. "I want to train them to take care of the trees
and wildlife I love in Montana," he says. "I also want
them to take care of me and my family."
he had an impact? Smith says when he had surgery in 1999, eight
of those who treated him were former students. He also picks
research projects that directly affect
lives, such as monitoring and cleaning Missoula's air, and developing
less-toxic fuels like biodiesel.
like magic? The real wizardry takes place in the classroom, where
this master teacher uses chemistry to make solutions freeze by
snapping his fingers or change color when he rubs the bottom
of a flask. And G. Wiz regularly appears in Smith's elaborate
PowerPoint presentations to explain terms such as chemical bonding
and Brownian motion.
think the fun stuff lets the students relax and recharge," he
says. "I know I have fun."