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Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea

Tea is the world’s most popular beverage. Dive into a cup of tea with a chemist and discover the rich molecular brew that can be extracted from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Tea contains over a thousand different chemical compounds which contribute to its color, taste and scent — and its stimulating effects. The best-known is caffeine, but how does caffeine end up in tea and how can you get it out? Beginning with the leaves, Steeped explores the chemistry behind different styles of tea, from green teas to pu-erh. It tackles the age-old question of when, or even whether, to add milk.  And it puts the chemistry to use with advice on how to brew a better cup.


Upcoming Events

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God
Notre Dame Retreat House
Canandaigua, NY

5-6 April 2024

Chat GPT Saves the Day

It is the end of the semester and things are a bit busy, so I thought I would turn to Chat- GPT for a hand with the tasks on my list. First up was this Thesis column.

“Hey, ChatGPT, write a column for Nature Chemistry about how ChatGPT could ease the workload of a chemistry professor.”

Well, that wasn’t much help. I got an uninspiring five paragraph essay that seems to have been written by a high school student with a vague idea of what a chemistry faculty member does all day, and a Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG) Index hovering around 16.As much as I like to toss around three-syllable words, this is a bit much.

“That feels a little bland to me. Can you make it livelier?”

“Being a chemistry professor is no easy feat. Not only are you responsible for educating and advising your students, but you also need to stay up to date with the latest research and advancements in your field. It can be over- whelming, to say the least. But what if I told you that there’s a way to make your life easier? Enter ChatGPT — the artificial intelligence tool that’s here to save the day!”

See the full article in the June 2023 issue of Nature Chemistry to read my exploration of the potential of large language models for chemistry professors.

Prayer Prologue


At its core, prayer is the act of turning toward God, responding in love to the One who created us. In prayer not only do we call out to God, but God endlessly calls out to us, ever enfolding us in mercy, drawing us close in love.

Why do I pray? You might as well ask me why I breathe. I breathe so I can sing. I breathe to pause. I breathe, awake or asleep, whether I’m aware of it or not. So, too, do I pray. I pray like I breathe, that I might live. Prayer is, as St. John of the Cross said, the “breathing of God in the soul, of the soul in God.”

Yet unlike breathing, prayer is something we must learn and—again and again—choose to do. The Scriptures have much to teach us about prayer. The passages and commentary contained in this small book barely touch the surface. My only hope is that these brief reflections will encourage and support those who seek the face of the Lord and long for him (Ps 42:3), those who wish to breathe in Christ.

Of course, it is not enough to read about prayer. We must practice it. And when we are anxious about prayer, worried whether we are “doing it right,” pastor and spiritual director Daniel Ruff, SJ, has reassuring advice: “The only way to go wrong in prayer is not to do it at all.” All the wisdom of Scripture, saints, and sages can be summed up in a single word of instruction: pray.


From Prayer: Biblical Wisdom for Seeking God, which was an honorable mention title at the 2022 Catholic Media Association Awards.

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