Name: Jay Forsythe
Hometown: I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania – a suburb of Philadelphia.
Education: B.S., Furman University; Ph.D., Vanderbilt University; Postdoctoral Fellow, Georgia Tech
Job title: Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
How long have you worked at the College? It will be five years in August. Time flies!
What are your job responsibilities? I spend most of my time on undergraduate teaching and research. I teach three lecture and/or lab courses each term and mentor two to five undergraduate researchers at any one time. Research students typically spend 2–6 hours per week during the school year on research and 40 hours per week for 10 weeks in the summer. We research how proteins – the chemical machinery of life as we know it – could have formed and evolved on the primordial Earth. I advise students also and have service responsibilities for CofC and various scientific organizations.
What do you like most about your job? My favorite thing is watching students grow and develop during their time at CofC. One thing that originally drew me here was our emphasis on both the sciences and the liberal arts. I believe education is more than just career preparation – it enables us to better understand and care for everyone and everything around us. College was a very formative time in my life, and I see it as a true privilege to participate, even in a small way, in my students’ life journeys.
What question do you get asked most in your job and what’s your typical answer? The question I’m getting asked the most right now is “How are you holding up?” My answer is more honest than it used to be – I often say “not great.” I feel more comfortable telling others now, including the students, how I am really feeling. When you become a professor, it doesn’t mean you suddenly have it all together.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I tried to pretend like everything was okay. In truth, it wasn’t. And it still isn’t. COVID, pervasive racism, separation from others, our democracy under literal attack – so many lives have been lost and so many more have been upended. Trying to process it all, while also holding onto hope that things will get better soon (thanks to incredible science!) and that we can actually make a difference in this world, can feel overwhelming. I have relied heavily upon the CofC community this year, that’s for sure.
What’s your favorite location on campus and why? I work almost exclusively in SSMB but often grab lunch to-go from Marty’s Place – it is a good excuse to get outside and walk through campus. My favorite spot is turning onto Green Way from Coming Street and seeing the beautiful trees and historic buildings.
What are your hobbies? I’m obsessed with soccer. I live next to a field, so when the weather is nice, sometimes I’ll lace up the cleats and kick around. I also love waking up early on the weekends to watch English Premier League matches. I’ve been a Liverpool FC supporter for more than two decades, so their recent success has been awesome to watch. We’re in a bit of a rough patch now, but that’s how it goes. Charleston actually has an official Liverpool fan club, so I look forward to watching games with them again after COVID.
I also collect and listen to records – a good hobby during a pandemic! I listen to all kinds of stuff, but my favorite genres are jazz, indie rock and hip-hop/R&B. Before COVID, I would often spend Saturday afternoons perusing the used record bins at Monster Music. Can’t wait to do that again.
What personal and/or professional accomplishment are you most proud of? Honestly, it was getting a faculty position here at CofC. I’ll never forget my first day after orientation. My Ph.D. advisor from Vanderbilt called my office just to say, “Hi, Professor Forsythe.” It didn’t feel real – I had dreamed of teaching for years and it was finally a reality.
Name a creative work (book, movie, performance, etc.) you enjoyed recently and why? My colleague Dr. Michael Giuliano recommended N. K. Jemisin’s “Broken Earth” trilogy last summer and I flew through all three books. I usually stick to research papers or nonfiction, but these books were much better to read on the beach!
My new favorite TV show is Ted Lasso, a comedy about an American football coach, played by Jason Sudeikis, thrown into English soccer. I am essentially its target audience, so it isn’t surprising that I love it. But I don’t think one needs to be a soccer fan to enjoy it. It has a lot of heart and depth.
What was your favorite TV show growing up? I watched a ton of Nickelodeon as a kid – GUTS, Salute Your Shorts, Doug, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Rugrats, Nick Arcade, etc.
What’s next on your bucket list? My wife and I had a small, outdoor wedding ceremony in December – we had hoped to honeymoon in Europe this summer, but we’re going to have to wait. I would give just about anything to fly to Europe, take a train to some small Bavarian village, find an outdoor café, order a pretzel and a beer, and look up at the snow-capped Alps. Perhaps in 2022!
What is something your campus colleagues would be surprised to know about you? I like the taste of coffee but never drink it – it makes me jittery. “Grabbing coffee” means green tea for me.
What was your first job? I worked as a K–5 day-camp counselor for a few years and really enjoyed it. The kids were hilarious.
What’s your favorite Lowcountry restaurant? We’ve been getting takeout from Edmund’s Oast and Spanglish on occasion – I love both. The mac and peas from Edmund’s Oast might be the best side dish I’ve ever had. Another place that stands out is Chez Nous – my wife and I had our engagement dinner there back in 2019. It has a special place in my heart. I look forward to going back at some point.
Describe your perfect day: I’ll pick some things to do here in Charleston, after COVID. First, I would wake up early, make breakfast and tea, and watch a good soccer match or two (probably two). Then we would take our dog for a beach walk, followed by brunch on an outdoor patio. We would go to the record store in the afternoon and relax after. In the evening, we would head downtown for a walk through the historic district followed by dinner, dessert and a concert at the Music Hall.
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