Magazine On-line [spring 2008]
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John Kromer: Following His Instincts

John KromerWhen senior John Kromer made a list of what he was looking for in a college, it included a small campus, an NCAA Division III swim team, and an accounting major. Transylvania offered those things, but it was something else that influenced Kromer to apply.

“I came for a visit,” he said, “and as I was walking across campus, there was a girl I didn’t know sitting there and she said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ I looked around and there was no one else. She was talking to me. It was the friendliness that sealed it for me.”

As for the list, Kromer, who was a swimmer in high school in Independence, W. Va., decided to forego swimming for study time and was unable to schedule an accounting course his first term.

“It was a blessing,” he said. “I had taken chemistry in high school, so I took that instead and something about it just made sense to me.”

Now completing a double major in chemistry and French with a biology minor, Kromer plans to attend graduate school in chemistry and is leaning toward a career as a chemistry professor. He got a taste of that when he presented research with chemistry professor Gerald Seebach at an American Chemical Society conference last year.

“The chemistry program here really encourages you to get involved in research,” he said. “I spent the summer here doing research with Dr. Seebach. I also got a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Minnesota, where I worked with Peter Carr, who is forefront in his field in chromatography.”

Kromer will return to the ACS convention this year to present research that he first conducted for his senior seminar.
“In my science classes, I’ve learned how to explain my work,” he said. “I’ve learned how to speak somewhat eloquently and be convincing.”

But Kromer’s time is not spent entirely with left brain pursuits. A trombone player for 12 years, he is also a member of the Transylvania band.

“Music has always come naturally,” he said. “It’s really mathematical to me. Especially playing trombone – there are seven slide positions—so that’s how I’ve been able to do it.”

When music professor Ben Hawkins offered a May term course on beginning and refresher wind instruments two years ago, Kromer knew Hawkins was hoping to recruit new band members, but he asked if he could take the course and learn to play a new instrument.

“I thought, ‘What does no one else play?” he said, “‘I know—bassoon.’”

The bassoon clicked for Kromer too, and he has played the instrument in the concert band ever since.

“Music is fun for me,” he said, “I can go there and relax. Chemistry is so analytical. Music is more interpretive. I’m not sure I really understood what liberal arts meant when I came here, but I’ve been living it with all the opportunities we have.”

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