How Science 101 Sparked Sheldon Saccoman’s Interest in Biology and Chemistry
Written by Madeleine Jepsen
When Sheldon Saccoman came to Hillsdale, he had no idea that exploring the core curriculum, rich with history and English classes, would ultimately lead him to a biology and chemistry double major.
As a high schooler, Sheldon first heard of Hillsdale College through the Rush Limbaugh show and looked into the school at his mother’s encouragement.
“I loved the mission of pursuing truth and defending liberty, and at the time I was thinking about doing politics or economics, so it was really appealing to me that way,” he said.
Investigating further, Hillsdale kept coming up in his college search.
“I used this search engine that compared schools to see what would be a good fit for you,” he said. “What if I want to join the track team? Do they have a track team? What if I want to do a shooting sport? What if I want to change my major, if I want to go into history? I’d be changing all these things in the search engine, and Hillsdale was the one that just kept showing up as number one. I thought, I guess I better check this place out.”
So he applied, and as an incoming freshman, the social sciences appealed to Sheldon. He spent his high school years racking up advanced placement credit in classes such as U.S. history, government, microeconomics, and macroeconomics, so an opportunity to explore economics and politics in the Hillsdale environment appealed to him.
“As a high-school student, I didn’t really care about some of the classes I was taking all that much,” he said. “If it had AP or advanced in front of it, I took it. Because I was really heavy in the social sciences, I was thinking, Maybe that’s the way I should go.”
Of all the core classes, Science 101, a semester combination of introductory physics and chemistry, was the least appealing.
“It was more of a get-it-out-of-the-way class. I just wanted to complete the core requirements,” Sheldon said.
However, as he delved into the course material, Sheldon began to realize he may have been wrong about his initial appraisal of the class. Physics labs examining the nature of movement through motion detectors and bouncy balls, and chemistry labs looking at the acidic content of orange juice piqued his interest in science.
“The lab that sticks out most in my mind is the titration of orange juice,” he said. “We had to determine the amount of ascorbic acid in orange juice or something like that. I thought, Oh, this is really cool.”
He first began to consider a degree in science during the chemistry portion.
“I started thinking, Wow, science is actually a field I can see myself going into.”
When scheduling his sophomore year classes, he decided to take a chance and signed up for general chemistry and university physics, using his accumulated AP credits to allow a semester of further science exploration.
Once he formally declared his majors in the spring of his sophomore year, Sheldon faced another challenge: catching up on the science coursework he still needed to take. However, attitude is everything, and he soon found the difficult coursework to be an especially rewarding experience.
“It’s been a challenge, but strength rejoices in the challenge,” Sheldon said, smiling. “I think it’s been a good thing because now, after tackling the core classes that first year and just kind of exploring the liberal arts, I was able to determine that I wanted to be a scientist. Even though it’s been challenging because I have to take all these upper-level courses all together, it’s also helped in that they all overlap. What we’re learning about in organic chemistry right now, I’ve also learned about in my organic synthesis class. What we’re learning about in instrumental analysis right now, I just had last semester in analytical chemistry. It’s difficult and challenging, but it’s also rewarding, and there’s a lot of overlap that I probably wouldn’t have seen.”
Madeleine Jepsen, ‘18, studies biochemistry and journalism. Outside the classroom, Madeleine serves as a reporter and assistant editor for the Collegian. She is also involved in Catholic Society.