Andy Cole ’07

Andy was named Client Solutions Director for Interaction Associates. The firm specializes in global consulting and training innovation; Andy will work in its Boston, Mass., office. Before joining IA Andy co-created two successful businesses in the innovation and technology marketplace. His background also includes product development in aerospace with Google, non-emissive fuels with the EPA, neuroscience with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and Technology, energy efficiency with the Environmental Defense Fund, and renewable energy with Vestas Wind Systems. Andy was a 3-2 engineering major at Kalamazoo College. He earned a B.A. in physics from K, and he earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. He earned an M.B.A. in entrepreneurial leadership from Babson College (Wellesley, Mass.)

Abstract Thinker

I had heard two stories about Professor of Physics Jan Tobochnik, one of which turned out to be mostly true.

That one involved the surprise of college officials surrounding his arrival (let’s describe it as minimalist) at Amherst (Massachusetts) College. The 18-year-old Tobochnik had traveled from Philadelphia alone and by bus, accompanied by two large suitcases he had to schlep two blocks from the bus stop to campus. Where were his parents? “In Philadelphia,” he said with some surprise of his own. “Where else would they be?”

“Well, I don’t remember saying that,” says Tobochnik today. “But I guess my entry was a bit atypical, even for 1971.”

The second story—physics a distant second career choice behind his desire to be shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies—is completely false. “Though I did know a professor at Cornell [Tobochnik’s graduate school] who did have to choose between physics and playing in the minor leagues,” he says.

Does Tobochnik at least remain a lifelong Phillies fan? “I try hard to,” he confesses. “But this year they’re pretty bad, so I’m kind of agnostic.”

Would acuity in physics better serve the science of fielding or hitting? Tobochnik ponders a moment or two. “Probably fielding, where there would be more time (perhaps marginally more) to think about the application of physics,” he ponders. “Some physics might apply to a player’s stance in the box or nuances in the bat swing, but the ball is on you so fast.” He brightens: “There’s a surprising amount of scientific literature published on physics and baseball. I read a lot of it in the journal I edited [The American Journal of Physics].”

This is a man who loves questions, no matter how far afield (or, “from left field”) they may seem. Jan Tobochnik is BeLight’s first physicist to endure the “Lighten Up” interview.


What’s the best song ever recorded?

I don’t know. I’m bad with popular culture questions. I like the Beatles. Is “Let it Be” one of theirs? Let’s go with that.

What’s your favorite childhood fairy tale or story?

I can’t really remember any, certainly nothing before the age of four-and-a-half. There is a story about me that I don’t recall but find interesting. In Philadelphia our house was near Route 1, a very busy 12-lane road. One day, around the age of 3, I apparently climbed from my crib and took a walk. I was found several blocks from our house at a drug store. It was lucky I didn’t try to cross Route 1.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

I’m an atheist. I can’t answer this one.

What’s your favorite word?


What’s your least favorite word?

Generally speaking, any word that disparages people or groups.

What turns you on?

Abstract thinking! One of the most important things I try to do at K is cultivate in students an appreciation for abstract thinking.

What turns you off?


What sound do you love?

The sound of ocean waves on a shoreline.

What sound do you hate?

Fingernails on a chalkboard.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

I would like to be a politician because I think that work is so important. And yet I wouldn’t want to be a politician today because the current state of our public discourse is so ugly and polemic.

What profession would you not like to participate in?

Anything on an assembly line. It would be too repetitive.

What’s been a GREAT MOMENT in your liberal arts learning?

At Cornell I was working on a project that had to do with a theory of melting that was developed by two renowned physicists, Kosterlitz and Thouless. I remember one day having a prolonged argument about that theory with a visitor to the department. I didn’t know who he was, but my advisor later told me it was Kosterlitz. Had I known that, we wouldn’t have had the discussion that we had.

Who’s the person (living or dead) with whom you’d most like to spend a lunch hour?

Elizabeth Warren. She’s positioned to move politics in a direction in which I’d like to see it go. I would like to know what she’s thinking.

What memory from childhood still surprises you?

I attended a big public junior high school in Philadelphia. More than 1,000 students in three grades. I was the first or second fastest sprinter in that school. That didn’t last into high school. But the memory still surprises me.

What is your favorite curse word?

The one I use the most is full-of-shit.

What is your favorite hobby?

I don’t think I really have one, as such. I like to read. I read about sports. I play racquetball. I play bridge. But I don’t really consider any of those hobbies.

What is your favorite comedy movie?

“A Serious Man” is a fascinating combination of hilarious and dark. I also liked “Brother Where Art Thou.”

What local, regional, national, or world event has affected you most?

The civil rights movement and the Vietnam War shaped how I think.

If a cow laughed, would milk come out of her nose?


New Zealand Honey and an Episcopal Childhood

Cliff Van Eaton ’72 has written one honey of a book…about honey!

Manuka: The Biography of an Extraordinary Honey, is the ‘rags-to-riches’ tale of how a piece of scientific serendipity turned an unwanted honey into a ground-breaking medicine. Manuka honey is a product unique to New Zealand and valued for its antibiotic effects. Cliff’s book chronicles the science behind the discovery of those effects.

It was named a finalist in the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand Book Prize. The Royal Society of New Zealand is modeled on the original Royal Society in England, the oldest continuing academy of sciences in the world. An important function of the Society is the sharing of science-based ideas in the overall New Zealand community, and the Book Prize is a way of celebrating the efforts of writers and publishers in that regard. The competition is held every two years, and is open to all books by New Zealand authors that “communicate scientific concepts in an interesting and readable way for a general audience.” Love those science writers with a lay audience in mind.

Cliff is a well-known writer on beekeeping subjects and is co-author of two books on bee diseases. For more than 30 years he worked as a beekeeper adviser in New Zealand, and has also assisted beekeepers in countries as diverse as the Solomon Islands, Uruguay, and Vietnam.


On his way home for dinner, the narrator of Jim Todd’s (class of 1958) memoir, The Key, stops to watch the demolition of the Episcopal Church building that was his church home growing up. At first the razing of a spiritual “home” troubles him and also prompts a vivid recollection of a single choir season–the fall-to-spring of the narrator’s 12th year. The flashback of those nine months in the life of “Joey”–the narrator’s younger self–and his two close friends, Danny and Kenny (the “three inseparables”), occupy the ensuing 13 chapters of the book. The church-and-choir related hijinks of these three (who move through the narrative like a Tom Sawyer and his gang) include a frog funeral at church that inspires the start of acolyte training, a school-boy crush on a department store holiday season harpist, a water war with Baptist youth choir members that escalates into something more serious, a spitball attack on the choir director, the sabotage of a presentation by the girl (and fellow choir member) Joey likes but doesn’t know he likes, and the changing of Joey’s voice–a sad casualty of maturation that necessitates his “fall from grace” as the choir’s soprano soloist (first row) to the hinterland of alto background (second row).

Jim has written a book about the importance of fun, the inevitability of impermanence and change (Joey’s voice, the nature of friendships, the relocation of a church), and, most importantly, what endures in the face of such impermanence. The book’s final chapter snaps the reverie of the adult narrator into the present. The dump trucks are back filling the church building’s former foundation. And yet the evanescent last images of Joseph’s flashback call to life the profound changes he experienced in church late that choir season of long ago. That memory confirms for him the key of what matters and what never changes. The narrator finds himself less troubled by the scene at which he stopped. Joseph is a church leader at its new home. He starts his car to continue his way home, taking “the key” and the essence of his old church building with him.

Péter Érdi, the Luce Professor of Complex System Studies

Péter has been named editor-in-chief of Cognitive Systems Research, a journal that covers the study of cognitive systems and processes both natural (organic) and artificial (robotic). Péter has taught at K since 2002 in the departments of physics and psychology. He also directs the College’s Center for Complex System Studies. Additionally, he is co-director of the Budapest Semester in Cognitive Science, a study abroad program mostly, but not exclusively, for North American students, including students from K. Péter was head of the department of biophysics at the KFKI Research Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics in Budapest from 1993 to 2011. He has degrees in chemistry and chemical cybernetics.

Brett Blaauw ’05

Brett co-authored a paper that appeared in the Journal of Applied Ecology. According to paper’s other co-author, Rufus Isaacs, theirs is the first paper that demonstrates an economic advantage for farmers when they create wild bee habitat next to cultivated fields. The two entomologists planted marginal land surrounding blueberry fields with a mix of native perennial wildflowers. Even though the fields were pollinated by honey bees trucked in for the purpose, Brett discovered that, after a period of two years, the rising population of wild bees increased blueberry yields by 10 to 20 percent. That increase more than offset the costs of making the marginal land attractive to wild bee populations. Brett was the lead author on the paper. The K biology major completed his Ph.D. at Michigan State University under Isaacs and is now working at Rutgers University.

Danny Agustin Flores ’80

Danny is extending his involvement with his activities advancing biotech in a future area of recent interest in dairy: food production to meet nutritional needs for protein with biotechnology using the new genetic engineering of genome editing. Genome editing, Danny says, offers opportunities for improved feeds, crops and digestive manipulation as well as food proteins with potential medicinal properties. He continues his work to seek funding through public sourcing in order to transfer information between academe and industry and also to the public. He welcomes any feedback or comments on his research communications at his e-mail.

Jane Case-Smith ’75, Ph.D.

Jane died on July 31, 2014. At the time of her passing, she was professor and director of the Program in Occupational Therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, College of Medicine, Ohio State University. A highly regarded educator, Jane was co-editor and author of a widely adopted textbook: Occupational Therapy with Children, now in its sixth edition. At Kalamazoo College she majored in psychology and studied abroad in Muenster, Germany. she earned her Master of Occupational Therapy degree from Western Michigan University and her doctorate from the University of Georgia. Jane was considered one of the nation’s foremost experts in pediatric occupational therapy and rehabilitation. She was a respected clinical scientist and grant reviewer. At the time of her death she was principal investigator on two NIH-funded studies. She won many awards and was named a fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association in 1997. She is survived by her husband and their two sons.

Kate Golembiewski ’12

Professor Emerita of English Gail Griffin is a fan of Kate, a chemistry major who, Gail writes, “took on an English major very late in her career.” Kate’s putting both majors to work as a science writer, and Gail spotted one of Kate’s stories in a recent Atlantic Magazine online. “How Ancient Coral Revealed the changing Length of a Year” describes how coral layers (a byproduct of the organism’s daily living that marks a year’s growing seasons and days in a process somewhat akin to tree rings) show that the number of days that composed an earth year was much higher eons ago–420 days rather than today’s 365-6. She accounts for the difference in the dynamics of gravity, oceans and the moon’s distance from the earth, a gap growing incrementally and infinitesimally. Turns out Shakespeare’s Juliet had it right in more ways than she might have guessed when she implored Romeo to “swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, / That monthly changes in her circled orb.” The circled orb grows imperceptibly more distant, a centimeter or so a year. (Eventually–in several million years–the moon will be too distant to cause a solar eclipse.)  With her two majors, Kate is more likely to know the science in the literary reference. Kate’s K experience also included study abroad in Scotland.