Chemistry Professor Declares: ‘The Grandeur of God is in the Miniscule’

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

janser225Larry Louters holds up a model of a molecule. Wearing safety goggles and a white lab coat and flanked by an assortment of chemicals and glass beakers, Larry Louters looks every bit the part of a chemistry professor.

But soon into his talk on Jan. 23 at Calvin College’s January Series, it’s evident why Louters, a faculty member of Calvin College since 1984, is more than “the crazy science guy who blows things up and makes test tubes glow in the dark.”

To be sure, Louters kept his reputation fully intact by converting a 2-liter soda bottles into flying rockets, all to the delight of area school children and adults alike who simultaneously shrieked and laughed out loud.

Flaming bubbles?

Louters adeptly demonstrated how mixing the right chemicals can instantly create a radiance of beautiful colors, why flaming soap bubbles made from the right chemical compound does not burn a person’s skin, as well as how pouring a bit of liquid nitrogen into two, 2-liter bottles and placing them at the bottom of a plastic garbage can shoot a shower of ping pong balls out of it.

But Louters’ scientific showmanship comes with a purpose.

Amid his demonstrations punctuated with a dash of practiced humor, Louters mentioned he starts every new semester at Calvin by reading to his students Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

Many likely regard that Psalm with noticeable patterns, said Louters.

“It might be a mountain scene or a sun set,” said Louters, who graduated from Dordt College in 1971, earned a master’s in organic chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1974 and PhD in biochemistry in 1984.

Atoms declare God’s glory

“Have you ever stopped to look at the details?” Louters continued. “When chemists think of Psalm 19, they think of atoms and molecules declaring the glory of God.”

jansersecond225Louters gets ready to demonstrate how high a flame will get when he mixes the right chemicals.Making chemistry fun and relevant to students is partly the reason why Louters was honored in 2012 with Calvin’s highest accolade as a faculty member: the Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching.

Seeing God at work in the details is why he’s also a researcher. His current focus is GLUT 1, a protein involved in the transport of glucose into cells. It’s work that could have implications for cancer and diabetes research. He’s landed grants from the National Institutes of Health, Merck-AAS and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to enable him to conduct his research.

His love for teaching is why Louters directs summer Chemistry Camps for middle school students and local fifth graders who visit his annual spring “Chem Demos Program.”

God is in the miniscule

Louters credits to his daughter, Lauren, for inspiring the chemistry presentation he’s known for when she asked him when she was younger, “’Dad, did you know everything around us is made of atoms?’” Louters recalled.

Indeed he does, he said.

“The grandeur of God is in the miniscule,” he said.

And since it’s God’s creation, Christians have the responsibility of being good stewards of it. That’s best accomplished when people link arms together with one purpose.

“We’re also called to be good caretakers,” said Louters. “We can either be a good caretaker or a bad caretaker. How to we become a good caretaker? It’s always done in community. We do it together.”

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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