In case you missed the following article, I wanted to re-post it here to congratulate our beloved Paul...Dr. Dirt:)  What an amazing tribute to a truly wonderful man.  We love you Paul!  

A deserved honour

A few moments after one o’ clock on January 12th, I ducked into the back of alumni hall, with slight trepidation. Despite the obvious formality of the venue—high ceilings, wood panels, podium in front of framed portraits of smiling benefactors—the room vibrated with hushed excitement. I caught the eyes of many of my professors, smiling or whispering, and some of my peers, looking maybe just a little more expectant than usual.
Today, after teaching in the department of natural and applied sciences for eleven years as an assistant and then associate professor, Dr. Paul Brown was giving his first lecture as a “full professor.”
Photo Credit: Tim Andries
Dr. Brown has taught nearly everything from environmental and biochemistry, to plant physiology. But his specialty is soil science. Yes, he studies dirt. Though not dirt per se, more the thin mélange of living and non-living matter that covers the planet and makes all life possible.
Dr. Craig Montgomery, Chair of the Chemistry Department, introduced Dr. Brown, listing his many academic achievements.

The formality could not hide the affectionate familiarity that filled the room. He was introducing not only an excellent chemist and leading Intelligent Design theorist, but a friend—a well-respected friend.
Montgomery cited Dr. Brown’s eager and honest way among peers, his “gracious and clear-minded” way in the classroom, calling him “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” I couldn’t help but think of the proverb, “knowledge puffs up but love edifies.”

At the rush of applause following the heartfelt intro, Dr. Brown rose to the stand and paused, momentarily flushed with emotion. After recovering himself, Brown warmed up, quickly assuming the tone of a teacher who loves sharing what he has learned. He spoke of his journey as an academic and as a scientist, but also as a son, a husband, a father, and teacher.

I have always been intrigued by scientists. Perhaps the result of growing up with a father who collects wasps for a living. How does one end up studying something so intricate, so specific, and so obscure? Is it some remarkable passion, a twist of fate, or a prod by the economy? And how does one get there, to become an inspired professor, a loving father, one in whom “there is no deceit?”

For Dr. Brown it began purely and simply: His grandfather and father took him outside to show him the stars, instilling in him a joy-filled curiosity for life in the universe.
Surprisingly enough, our professor first set his sights on becoming an artist. But when his family moved to the aesthetic barrens of small-town New Mexico, and he to a high school with a newspaper that needed little more than comics, Brown turned to the sciences. After college, starting a family, and working as a glorified gardener (landscape horticulturalist) on an Idaho mansion for several years, Brown discovered that “plants are just really nice to work with.” They don’t talk back and don’t run away.

This discovery led him to his most esoteric field of study: secondary metabolites in plants, especially glucosinolates. These are chemical compounds that plants don’t really need for metabolism (the basics of survival) but usually serve some other function like chemical defense or attraction. Conveniently, these are also often attractive for us to use. Glucosinolates are the compounds present in mustard and wasabi, and can be used to make canola oil and bio-diesel. While conducting research on glucosinolates in canola for the Max Plank institute in Germany, Brown would often put his young daughter to sleep by answering the question, “Daddy what are glucosinolates?”

His other main academic focus is an often divisive issue in Christian circles: origin theories of intelligent design. But Brown refrained from engaging in a heated defense of the theory during his inaugural lecture. Instead, he simply smiled as he stated, “I really like this.” He explained how the theory gives room to acknowledge a higher power, incorporating an intelligent agent causality while not denying physical causality.
Though he refrained from sparking a debate on the subject in his lecture, Brown’s current theoretical morsel is worth mentioning here. From plant genetic research, Brown has found an array of cases that suggest evolution not as a net gain of genetic information but as a net loss. The abridged theory is that life started out from a more genetically complex state, that there was more diverse genetic material in the beginning than there is currently, despite increases in species, or speciation.

After the lecture, I could not help but be impressed. Here is a first-rate scientist and theorist. Yet his science has made him neither puffed up nor impersonal. Despite his intensive research and profound evolutionary theories, he regards his vocation as a father and teacher to be more important. He is knowledgeable and gracious and possesses a curiosity clearly motivated by love, which to me are qualities more remarkable than any number of theories or discoveries.
Cameron Reed