Profound Professors: Dr. David Magers

Freshman year, I walked into my 8 AM Chemistry class to be greeted by Dr. David Magers, whose wealth of knowledge is quite intimidating. Although Chemistry was one of my least favorite subjects, I grew to love the class. I believe this is due to the caring, patient nature of the professor who passionately loves his job.  This passion is evident while talking to Dr. Magers, which is something I did this week. It's been a couple of years since I took a class under Dr. Magers' instruction, and so I was reminded of the kind, passionate, and profound man he is.

                                                       Dr. David Magers, courtesy of Mississippi College

                                                       Dr. David Magers, courtesy of Mississippi College

His story

Dr. David Magers began as an Undergraduate at MC and went on to receive his Ph. D. in Theoretical Chemistry and Chemical Physics at the University of Florida. He started Post-Doctorate research at Harvard University, but did not complete his time at Harvard. At this point in his life, his dad had passed away, and his mom still lived in Mississippi. Thus, when he was contacted by MC and offered a job, he took the opportunity to come home and to be close to his mother.

                                                        Nelson Hall, Courtesy of Mississippi College

                                                        Nelson Hall, Courtesy of Mississippi College

After he accepted the job, he was joint-appointed as a professor of Chemistry and Mathematics. This is his twenty-seventh year teaching, and during his time here, he has taught over thirty different courses in four different disciplines: Chemistry, Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics.

Science and Religion

In 1996, Dr. John Meadors asked Dr. Magers to join forces to create a course based on the marriage of science and religion. They received a $10,000 grant from the Templeton Foundation and used the money to purchase dozens of books to prepare to teach a Senior Honors course on science and religion. "Knowing and Believing" has been taught regularly since 1997 on MC's campus, and Dr. Magers and Dr. Meadors still read several books and updated research to learn along with their students. 

His Research Group

When I asked Dr. Magers what his favorite part of being a professor at MC was, he had two answers: Teaching Physical Chemistry and his research group, the Computational Chemistry group. However, he quickly decided that his research group was his favorite part.

My research group is the most fun. I’m still connected to so many of my former research students. It’s like an extended family. I’m pretty proud of it because it highlights my students’ accomplisments.
— Dr. David Magers

He definitely has reason to be proud of this group, which is one of the largest research groups on campus. Since the beginning of the group in 1994, eighty-one students have given 425 student presentations, and nineteen former students have gone on to pursue a doctorate degree.

Fun fact: Both of his sons did research with him as undergraduates, with one son, Brandon, going on to get his Ph. D. in theoretical chemistry, and his other son, Andrew, is finishing his Psychology doctorate. His wife recently went back to school and got her Ph. D. in Nursing. Dr. Magers was proud to state that each member of his family is a doctor.

His heart for Students

Throughout the entire interview, Dr. Magers spoke of his students. In fact at one point, he proudly showed me photos of his former students at their weddings or even of their kids. He's held all three of a former students children on their days of birth.  He also loved showing off the work of his current research students, which can be viewed on the fourth floor of Hederman Science. 

                                                            Hederman Science Building, Courtesy of MC

                                                            Hederman Science Building, Courtesy of MC

Shelley Smith, a previous student of Dr. Magers, now teaches here at MC and received her Ph. D. from Jackson State University under the supervision of Dr. Magers. Before pursuing her doctorate, she was teaching in the area, and Dr. Magers is the person who convinced the chemistry department at JSU to allow Dr. Smith to keep her job while getting her Ph. D, which he said was quite unusual for a Chemistry graduate program.

When I went to grad school, I had to sign something that said I would not do anything outside of the Chemistry Department... They wanted you to be a chemistry grad student 365 days a year.
— Dr. David Magers

 

Dr. Magers' love for his students is evident. In fact, he told Dr. Smith that if she would take a job at Mississippi College, he would "no longer be the Director of the Computational Chemistry group, but the Co-director." I met Dr. Smith and her appreciation for all that Dr. Magers has done is evident. She believes that what makes his a profound professor is that:

He cares about his students. He doesn’t just forget about them when they go away. He wants you to learn, but he also wants you to succeed in life
— Dr. Shelley Smith

 

His Advice

Do what you love. If what you’re studying and what you want to do in your work is drudgery, it’s never going to make you happy. Don’t follow the money. Follow your bliss. You’ve got to do something you’re passionate about, or it’s not worth it.
— Dr. David Magers

It seems that Dr. Magers has followed his own advice. His passion for Chemistry and for his students is extremely apparent. A selfless, kindhearted, driven man, Dr. Magers is living a profound life.