2016 News Releases
TWU's Cynthia Maguire off to become a wizard
Chemistry faculty member Cynthia Maguire will become the science wizard Mistress of Potions after her upcoming trip to New Zealand. Photo by Michael Modecki
Texas Woman’s University chemistry faculty member Cynthia Maguire’s road to become a science wizard isn’t paved with yellow bricks in the Land of Oz. Rather, she will travel across the “Land of the Long White Cloud” to New Zealand this fall, returning as the “Mistress of Potions”— believed to be the nation’s first woman science wizard.
Maguire is following in the footsteps of and apprenticing with retired University of Montana chemistry professor Dr. Garon Smith, known by his wizardly alter-ego, G Wiz.
Maguire has seen G Wiz “perform” and teach science as a wizard at SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities) meetings. Last year, she and Smith began discussing the possibility of Maguire also using wizard performances to teach science.
“I said, ‘I would so love to do what you are doing,’” Maguire recalled. “And Garon said, ‘Why don’t you come with me and be my apprentice?”
Maguire spoke with Richard Sheardy, chair of the TWU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry where Maguire serves as a senior lecturer, about the possibility. He told her to “Go for it.”
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think this was possible,” Maguire said. “Then again, I didn't ever imagine myself teaching chemistry at a university, either.”
Cynthia Maguire's wizard cloak includes a key chain with words of inspiration. Photo by Michael Modecki
Maguire and Smith will travel across New Zealand for about three months starting in October and perform chemistry wizard shows for approximately 5,000 children in the country. Their visit is hosted by the University of Otago in Dunedin on the South Island. David Warren, a professional faculty fellow in the university’s chemistry department, will be their host chemist, arranging visits to schools on both islands.
“I realize this opportunity is a gift, truly a gift, and I don’t intend to waste it,” Maguire said.
When she returns, Maguire intends to reveal her alter-ego, the “Mistress of Potions” as part of her Intro to Chemistry class. In addition, she wants to perform for school children across North Texas and anywhere else invitations come from to inspire an interest in science.
“We know children in general, and girls in particular, get turned off to math and science in the later years of school,” Maguire said. “So this is an opportunity to do something real about that and open the doors to kids who may have already decided against science and think ‘Nah, something else will do fine.’”
Maguire says these performances aren’t intended to present science as magic, but to take real science and make it accessible and fun.
She continued, “We need these bright young minds to be curious and interested in science to help solve our world’s problems.”
Maguire believes that women are half of the solution, and maybe more.
“As a TWU alumna, and the longer I teach here, I really understand the value of this institution to society as whole, because I get it in a very personal way.”
Maguire, who has master’s degrees in both chemistry and biology from TWU, has taught at the university for 18 years. She grew up in a time when it was acceptable for women who were interested in science to either become nurses or teachers.
“I was going to become a nurse, and then I had my first chem lab where I saw the professor demonstrate the highly reactive properties of sodium metal. I thought, ‘Nurses don’t get to do this.’”
Maguire changed her major to medical technology and worked in the profession for about 15 years. She later had an opportunity to teach in a technical program at North Central Texas College.
“I fell in love with teaching,” she said.
Realizing she needed a higher-level degree to continue to teach, she was advised to come to TWU to pursue her master’s. As an undergraduate student, she had been weak in math. Maguire realized that like so many women she became ‘math phobic’ in elementary school.
“It was all in my head that I couldn’t do it,” she said. “So when I share my story with students, I want to instill in them to have no fear of math or science. Because we all have it in us – it’s a matter of attitude.”