Rebecca Crawford, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has retired after 29 years teaching a broad range of chemistry classes, from biochemistry to physical chemistry, at Loyola Marymount University’s Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering. The Los Angeles native now plans to spend more time with family members who live in the area and travel, starting with a trip this fall to enjoy the autumn colors of New England.
“The idea of wanting to travel made this the right time to retire,” she says. “I’ve put it off for a long time.”
Crawford earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and a minor in biology from UCLA. She attended graduate school at USC where she earned a Ph.D. in pharmacology. The multi-disciplinary emphasis of the USC graduate program prepared her well for a career in academia and teaching a variety of science courses, she says.
“I kind of see myself as a generalist,” she says. “In the pharmacology program, all of the professors were chemists and all the research problems were biochemistry. The faculty figured we were supposed to be competent in all of them. That opened a lot of doors for me.”
Crawford taught for three years at Cal State San Bernardino before being hired in the Chemistry Department at LMU. One of her first tasks was to launch a biochemistry program. Crawford obtained a National Science Foundation grant and visited other college biochemistry programs to create the program at LMU. She taught many of the courses and later helped develop and teach the advanced biochemistry electives. “Biochemistry is very hot right now,” she says. “It’s interdisciplinary.”
Crawford went on to develop other courses, including medicinal chemistry, food chemistry and toxicology. She spent the years from 1995 through 2002 analyzing the scientific literature on dietary factors that influence iron absorption.
She may be best known, however, for designing “Biochemistry Jeopardy,” a game she has orchestrated each year since 1990 on Study Day. She brings cheesecake to class and students get extra credit for attending.
“LMU has been a really good place to teach because they are open to new ideas, and my department has allowed me to explore different things,” she says.
The value of an LMU education, she adds, is that students, too, are encouraged to explore: by studying abroad, engaging in non-academic activities and working with professors on research projects.
“I went to UCLA as an undergrad. There were huge classes, and I never really accessed the faculty all that much,” she explains. “At LMU, the faculty are not just accessible but hope the students will come and ask questions and explore topics outside of class.”
In retirement, Crawford will continue to feed her scientific curiosity as the organizer of an LA-area, nonfiction science book club. But she says she’ll miss teaching.
“I just really enjoy sharing the interesting things I learn about,” she says. “Another thing I’ve enjoyed about teaching is when a student is confused and you explain it and they get it, and you can see it in their faces.”