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Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Candice Viddal

Dr. Candice Viddal, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Physics, has taught at CMU since 2010.

What did you teach this past year that most excited you?

I began teaching a sequence of courses in biochemistry. Biochemistry is essentially a course about the chemical reactions that underlie the way that biological organisms work. I find it very fascinating. In particular, I really enjoy learning about proteins. Proteins are essentially the workhorses of the cell. They do all kinds of different things and each protein has its own task. In the last 50 years, there have been so many advances in our knowledge of what specific proteins look like in terms of their three dimensional structure. I can often find in the literature new stories, new contemporary findings, and new discoveries to share with students in the class.

04 - Candice Viddal (May 2016)What are you researching and writing right now?

I study protein dynamics with computer modeling. This means that I track the motions of the tens of thousands of atoms that compose a protein as a way of trying to understand how it performs its function. When proteins do their job, they have to jiggle around. They’re generally very, very dynamic. One of my particular interests is in tracking the energy flow. That is, if an event happens in a protein, I’m interested in knowing how the information of that event, like the binding of a chemical, transmits throughout the protein so that the rest of the protein responds to it.

What are you reading for enjoyment?

I’m reading Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears. It’s a historical mystery novel about the rise and fall of a wealthy man named John Stone around World War I. The story has a very interesting structure: three different people in three different locations at three different times tell it. What I find particularly interesting about the book is that Iain Pears understands the human condition very well. He gets into the characters’ minds and plumbs the depths of their experience, which makes for an engaging narrative.

What do you most long for in your work?

One dream I have is for CMU to eventually offer a Bachelor of Science degree program. Another dream I have is to teach a “Big Ideas” course in science. Right now, I teach very rigorous scientific courses, and I enjoy that. But I would also love to be able to teach courses that engage with students that are not necessarily interested in the real heavy duty mechanics of the subject, but maybe are intrigued by the concepts. I’d love to teach “Science for Poets,” or something like that. It always fascinates me to think about how I would approach a course like that.

What saying or motto inspires you?

I don’t know who said it, but “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” I often think about that. It inspires me to grow daily and to live courageously. It also serves as a reminder that we can do a lot more than we imagine sometimes.

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Face2Face: On Campus – Community in Conversation Video

It’s Not Only About Atoms: Embracing the Science of Complexity with Prof. Candice Viddal

How does current thinking in physics and chemistry affect how we experience and understand other areas of life?

That is the question Candice Viddal, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Physics at Canadian Mennonite University, explores in the fourth installment of the 2013/14 Face2Face conversation series.

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Next event in conversation series to explore ‘the science of complexity’

How we think about matter impacts on understanding of the world, professor says

How does current thinking in physics and chemistry affect how we experience and understand other areas of life?

Candice Viddal, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Physics
Candice Viddal,
Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Physics

That is the question Candice Viddal, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Physics at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), will discuss during the university’s next Face2Face event. Face2Face is a series of conversations with CMU faculty designed to engage the community on a wide variety of current events and issues at the intersection of faith and life.

Titled “It’s Not Only About Atoms: Embracing the Science of Complexity,” this Face2Face conversation will take place on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7:00 PM in CMU’s Great Hall (500 Shaftesbury Blvd.). Admission is free, and everyone is welcome to attend.

“Since the ancient Greeks, the dominant conception of matter is that it consists of simple building blocks – that the whole can be described as the sum of the parts,” Viddal says.

She adds that scientists have come a long way in revealing exquisite detail about matter at many different length scales, from the incredibly small, like quarks and leptons; to atoms; to larger conglomerations of atoms such as proteins that perform a wide variety of tasks in living organisms; to genes that are the molecular units of heredity.

“Using examples from physics to chemistry, I’ll show that putting the parts back together again to describe complex systems as a whole – whether they be magnetic materials, neural networks, or even social behaviours – is proving to require new ways of thinking,” Viddal says.

“This is leading modern scientists to slowly embrace the idea that the whole may indeed be more than the sum of parts.”

Both ways of thinking about matter have had an impact on our understanding of the world around us, and ourselves.

“No one doubts that we are composed of atoms, but some say that we are ‘merely’ a collection of atoms, while others believe we are more than that – using descriptors such as mind, spirit, and heart,” Viddal says.

“I’m looking forward to exploring this dichotomy.”

“It’s Not Only About Atoms: Embracing the Science of Complexity” is the fourth of seven Face2Face events CMU is hosting during the 2013-14 school year. For the complete Face2Face schedule, please visit www.cmu.ca/face2face.

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Audio Faculty interviews Sunday@CMU Radio

Candice Viddal – Science and the Mysteries of God

Candice Viddal
Instructor of Physics and Chemistry
Interview Date: November 6, 2011

In this interview, Candice speaks with David Balzer – host of Sunday@CMU Radio, about how she gravitated to science as a child and how science and creation have become for her an expression of God’s existence and mystery.

Part 1

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Part 2

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For more information on Candice Viddal, click here.