Portrait on Main Hall Green: Allison Fleshman (Photo by Danny Damiani)

About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different Lawrence faculty member each time — same questions, different answers.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Allison McCoy Fleshman, an associate professor of chemistry, has a deep love of science.

It’s evident when she’s teaching or conducting research as an associate professor of chemistry. She’s been a key member of the Lawrence University chemistry faculty since 2013. It’s also evident when she joins her husband, Bobby Fleshman, at their McFleshman’s Brewing Co. in downtown Appleton. The Mc in the name comes from McCoy, and she revels in the science of beer-making at the micro-brewery and taproom.

Fleshman has a bachelor of science degree in physics and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Oklahoma.

We caught up with her to talk about interests in and out of the classroom.

IN THE CLASSROOM

Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?

I absolutely love science, and in particular physical chemistry, and my enthusiasm is sincere. When I teach the Periodic Table of the Elements to my introductory chemistry students, my eyes fill with tears as I talk about its beauty. Those are real tears. Having a deep passion for the subject helps students appreciate what it means to be a life-long learner. I tell them that even something as simple as table salt, sodium chloride, still has so many secrets to share. Sincere enthusiasm fuels us to keep asking questions, even on things we think we understand.  

Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited?

I work with liquid salts that have fascinating physical properties, and have potential use in battery systems, carbon sequestration; you name it, these nifty materials can likely do it—except your taxes, they probably can’t do that, but they could be used in inks, so yeah, I guess they can do your taxes. My research focus is developing mathematics that describes the behavior of these liquids. I get super excited when the theoretical models explain experimental observations—sounds nerdy, but when the math works out, I do a happy dance. 

Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional or spiritual) that took you by surprise?

In 2017, a chance encounter at a conference resulted in me moving to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for six months as the resident director of an off-campus study program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I was shocked to have the door open for me, but took advantage and learned so much science and met some great people. I admit that Imposter Syndrome is a real thing, but working at Oak Ridge helped build my confidence in my abilities as a scientist. My project was on the same liquid salts I mentioned, but using a completely new technique. I essentially got to play with a big laser that tracked little fluorescent molecules as they danced through the liquid salts. It was an absolute blast.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing?  

Not a fair question. If I wasn’t teaching physical chemistry, I’d likely be teaching yoga, so still teaching. If I had to avoid teaching altogether, I’d probably join my husband at McFleshman’s Brewing Co. and write articles for the Society of Brewing Chemists. You can take the scientist out of the lab, but you can’t take the lab out of the scientist?

Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation, or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus?

My personal favorite spot: The Esch Hurvis Room in the Warch Campus Center has yoga classes facing the windows that overlook the river. I highly recommend them because you get a remarkable view to accompany a great yoga practice in the middle of the day. 

One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?

I’m not sure what this says about my soul, but for a book: Salt by Mark Kurlansky. A fascinating tale of how salt has changed the world, although when I have recommended it to friends, they don’t tend to like it. Their loss. It is so fascinating. Although I should also give a shout out to Eric Scerri’s The Periodic Table, which now dons the First-Year Studies list. It has become a close runner-up to Salt. 

Recording: Tom Petty’s Southern Accents. My husband and I saw him and the Heartbreakers over 30 times in concert, but never heard this song live. There are many others, but this one does speak to my soul, in particular the live version in Gainesville, Florida, for the 30th anniversary tour. Check out YouTube. You’re welcome. RIP, Tom.

Film: I’m a child of the ’80s. Raiders of the Lost Ark for the win. 

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu.

Find more faculty profiles from the On Main Hall Green With … series here.