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From Chocolate to Chemistry, He has the Answers

Submitted by on June 3, 2019 – 8:01 pm
NECC Professor Mike Cross with chocolate he uses in his presentations.

Don’t let the chocolate fool you. Dr. Mike Cross is serious about teaching chemistry and forensic science in the most digestible way.

Whether he is extolling the virtues of dark chocolate, planning a weekend board game marathon, or dusting for fingerprints in his forensic science class, Professor Mike Cross does it with a laid-back enthusiasm that is positively infectious.

Some playfully call Dr. Cross the “chocolate doctor”. We call him a faculty force, who once, despite holding a Ph.D., enrolled at NECC as a new student to experience what his students experience. Now that is dedication.

Cross, who teaches in the natural science s department, is a member of the NECC Speakers Bureau where he is a popular lecturer on the topics of chocolate and medical quackery. He is also founder and advisor to the NECC Bacon Board Gamers’ Club; and if his Forensic Science class were a concert, it would be standing room only.

He is a natural educator and communicator, who readily admits he wanted to be a scientist since kindergarten. Now, he brings that youthful wonderment and enthusiasm into the classroom, constantly exploring new ways to teach age-old information. He employs magic tricks and demonstrations to emphasize a point.

For example, to explain dimensional analysis, a problem-solving tool used in chemistry, Cross retrofitted dominoes with chemistry symbols. Students use the symbols to set up a problem and then flip the dominoes in order to see the conversion factors and calculate the answer.  “It’s fun, easy and it really works,” he says.

The son of a physicist/engineer, Cross wanted to emulate his dad.

A self-described “lab geek,” Cross initially thought he might pursue pharmacy or a lab science. He never stood at the front of a classroom until the last year of his Ph.D. program when he had the opportunity to teach for six weeks. The chemistry in the classroom resulted in an instant career change.

“I found I loved teaching. Interestingly enough, one of my earliest memories is of chalk dust from my Dad’s classroom when he was in graduate school,” he says.

Professor Cross and his young family headed east following his graduation from the University of Utah.

Today, he has no regrets about trading the laboratory in for the classroom.

“My favorite part of teaching is seeing the students getting excited about science,” he says.

He still gets to indulge his research side by serving as adviser to students in NECC Honors Experience.

“I get to see research on topics I am curious about,” he says.