Jonathan Tedesco, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
One of the most popular fields of study on the Lake Erie College campus is pre-health professions—whether students complete a track in pre-med, pre-vet, pre-nursing, pre-physical therapy or pre-occupational therapy, chances are they will have to go through the classroom and the lab of Dr. Johnathan Tedesco, assistant professor of chemistry.
Originally from Milwaukee, Wisc., Dr. Tedesco grew up all over the country. "We moved every few years when I was growing up,” he said, "and by the time I started high school I was on my fifth school.” Apart from his home state, he also lived in Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, California, and Pennsylvania by the time he finished high school. Then, he settled in Ohio, beginning with his undergraduate career at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio.
His interest in chemistry began very early on. "My father worked for a number of pharmaceutical companies,” he said, "so I grew up exposed to the industry and spending significant time in labs. I have spent time both in industrial and academic labs.”
After earning his bachelor of science with a major in chemistry from Ashland University, Dr. Tedesco continued on to earn his Ph.D at Case Western Reserve University. "My thesis dealt with the Aβ peptides which are thought to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease,” he said. "My work involved investigating the kinetics of methionine oxidation in the peptides as well as immunological characterizations of nonspecific antibody binding using high performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance and fluorescence spectroscopy.”
Soon afterwards, however, education called out to him just as it had during his earlier years in academia, and he joined the Lake Erie College faculty. "I started my undergraduate career as an education major but quickly changed to chemistry,” he said. "I have always wanted to teach at a small school.” Now he gets to share his love for the sciences, and specifically chemistry, which he said he chose because it is "a truly ubiquitous subject.” "I wanted to avoid losing any opportunities.”
At LEC Dr. Tedesco teaches general chemistry, organic chemistry (commonly known among students as one of the hardest classes in the LEC curriculum), inorganic chemistry and instrumental analysis. "I am also advising and overseeing students interested in research,” he said. "Our current project involves using atomic absorption spectroscopy to analyze heavy metal content in local ecosystems and the effects it may have on the physiology of plants.”
In all of his classes, Dr. Tedesco focuses on the real-world applications of his subject, and there are many. "Chemistry is a fascinating subject in that everything we do on a daily basis involves it,” he said. "It is impossible not to use chemistry, even if you don’t realize you are taking advantage of it.”
He had some specific examples from recent classes. "In general chemistry we talk about a number of applications including distillation of crude oil into gasoline, microwave ovens and the chemistry of breathalyzers,” he said. "In organic chemistry we spend a significant amount of time in both lecture and lab on pharmaceuticals and biological processes. In instrumental analysis we discuss some of the techniques that are the laboratory precursors to common diagnostic techniques in hospitals and doctors’ offices.”
But the real-world applications don’t stop with just the classes included on the curriculum; they continue in the independent research that students and professors are doing as well. Speaking of the research that his group is currently undertaking, Dr. Tedesco said that it is certainly "real world” applicable.
"The industrial history of this region lends itself to a tremendous amount of pollution,” he said. "While some of this has certainly been cleaned, we are investigating the possibility of lingering heavy metals in our ecosystem and whether they can be passed up the chain and eventually reach our homes. Many of these metals have potentially devastating health effects, so it is important to know what is in our waterways and soil and if it is staying in the ground or being processed by plants and animals that we are consuming.”
While organic chemistry is indeed one of the toughest classes on campus, it is also Dr. Tedesco’s favorite one to teach. "Through it, students have a chance to see and appreciate how all of the ‘little things’ they learn in general chemistry come together so that our bodies can function and life can exist, how some of the prescriptions we take work in the body and even to synthesize some in lab,” he said. He is also committed to helping students pass organic chem in any way possible. "[This class] requires a tremendous amount of time outside of class and I am often here in the evenings at students’ requests for review sessions, during which we have, in the past, had everything from doughnuts and coffee to pizza to Belgian waffles and ice cream.” Sounds like taking organic chemistry is actually a pretty delicious way to go through Lake Erie College.