Silver Chips Online

Dieckman, Megan

By Valerie Hu, Online News Editor
April 28, 2011
Name: Megan Dieckman
Department: Science
Came to Blair in: 2006
Classes Taught: Forensics, Honors Chemistry
Education: Masters from University of Maryland at College Park, Undergraduate Degree in Chemistry at Juniata College
Previous Jobs: Researcher, lab worker
Extracurricular Activities: Coordinator for Females in Science and Technology (FIST), Former sponsor of Ski Club
Hobbies: ceramics, traveling, skiing, snowboarding, performing science experiments

Dieckman, a chemistry and forensics teacher at Blair, holds a boa constrictor. Courtesy of Megan Dieckman
Dieckman, a chemistry and forensics teacher at Blair, holds a boa constrictor.
Megan Dieckman is more than just a teacher, she's an entertainer. Sporting a long, white lab coat covered in rainbow painted hand-prints and student signatures, Dieckman searches for an acceptably "cool" picture of herself. With safety goggles immersed in her dirty blonde curls and beaded earrings dangling from her ears, she settles on a picture of herself wrapped in the body of a boa constrictor. Taken on vacation, this picture serves as a reminder of Dieckman's love for traveling, one of her many passions besides teaching.

Before coming to Blair, Dieckman did biochemical research through a Merck Company grant. One lizard protein project that she worked on as a researcher examined the production of vitellogenin, a protein, within male lizards.

"[Vitellogenin] is an egg lipoprotein (a protein used when female lizards lay eggs)," she explains. "[We discovered that] when male lizards were exposed to particular toxins in their environment they start to produce this protein."

Despite Dieckman's interest in this project, other experiments she conducted were indicators that she "hated biology." After she repeated the same procedures and made 4,000 gels for what seemed like "forever, months and months", Dieckman realized that lab work did not mesh with her personality.

"Lab work is very lonely," she admits. Dieckman, desperate to interact with others, realizes that her enthusiasm may have been too bold for those around her, including the mailman that occasionally walked by her lab. Eventually, he started "slipping the mail under the door," she recalls, laughing. "I think I'm too much of a people person."

Growing up in a science-oriented family with a mother and sister who are both teachers, Dieckman always planned on pursuing a career in science. "I was never undecided," she says, but it was not until teaching an organic chemistry course in Pennsylvania that her students inspired her to move forward with a career in teaching.

Dieckman ponders what it is that she wants to achieve as a teacher. "Of course, I'd like for them all to be chemists," she says. But ensuring that all her students become chemists is not Dieckman's major goal as a teacher; what she really hopes to accomplish is to make learning an enjoyable experience. "I like to make it fun and applicable," she says, smiling.

Dieckman remembers an inspiring chemistry teacher she had who came to class dressed up as a wizard. Similar to her teacher, Dieckman finds that she must put in extra effort to truly enlighten students. "It takes a little more creativity and energy to find that fun and relatable connection," she says.

Dieckman lacks neither creativity nor energy. She devotes much of her time to learning about forensics, the application of science in criminal investigations, yet science is not the only subject Dieckman is passionate about. She spends time in studios working on ceramics, which she was exposed to while taking pottery classes.

"I really liked that medium," Dieckman says. Her brown eyes light up as she describes her unique creations. "I started developing pottery [which resembled molecular structures] that merged art and science," she recalls.

Dieckman is dedicated not only to teaching, but to her hobbies as well, so much so that her interests could have led her to the pursuit of a different career.

"If I could go back in time, I'd volunteer as a forensic anthropologist," she says. Still, there are certain things that she loves about Blair that are hard to find anywhere else. "I love the science department. We are like this!" Dieckman declares, crossing her fingers. While Dieckman maintains a close bond with her colleagues, it is clear that she values her time with her students just as equally. "They teach me almost as much as I teach them," she says.

Dieckman also "[loves] the stories [she] shares and the ones [her] students come up with," she says, as she recounts a fond Blair Fair memory involving flammable paper called flash paper. "It's the best!" she claims.

Whether it's chemistry, forensics, ceramics or expertise in the use of flash paper, Dieckman aspires to turn any situation into an inspirational lesson for her students, as well as into an entertaining story. "I do have good stories," she says with satisfaction.