Tuesday, April 9, 2013

He created the ideal learning climate

By Kimber Williams, Emory Report

It's Thursday up on the fifth floor of Emory's Math and Sciences building, and the familiar scent wafting through the hallways can only mean one thing. Waffles, and lots of them — homemade, golden brown and hot off the griddle.

The man behind the waffle iron is Woody Hickcox — geologist and climatologist, self-taught watercolorist/muralist, and resident chef.

Hickcox next to some of his art.
Hickcox is known both for creating the colorful artwork that blooms throughout the walls of the Department of Environmental Studies, and for his weekly waffle feasts that draw students, staff and faculty.

Hickcox explains how the Waffle Thursday tradition started:

"I was talking to a class about climate change, how water from the Gulf Stream flows to the North Atlantic and sinks. So we were talking about how when you have fluids of different densities, they will sink and rise. As an example, I talked about mixing waffle batter and whipped egg whites – if you put the waffle batter on top of the egg whites, it will basically turn over.

"Well, a lot of students have never seen waffles made from scratch. So I brought in the apparatus to make them. Afterward, one of the students, who's now a physician, said, 'Why don't you do waffles every week.' So we started making waffles every Thursday. We'll make up a big batch of waffle batter, and since I go to Vermont, we have a ready supply of real maple syrup.

"One or two people will often step in to help cook the waffles. You'll usually find a dozen people standing here, talking and eating, and a long line. That's what it's really all about, bringing people together. It creates community."

A senior lecturer in environmental studies, Hickcox is set to retire in May after nearly 29 years of teaching at Emory.

Read the whole interview with Hickcox in Emory Report. 

A geologist paints Darwin

Photos by Emory Photo/Video.

1 comment:

  1. I thought you would be interested to know that the mixing between waffle batter and egg white described here sounds like a famous physics process called Rayleigh-Taylor instability, which is what happens when a denser fluid is placed on a less dense fluid, creating intricate patterns of rising and sinking. I’m sure Woody Hickcox knows all about the science behind it.

    It turns out to show up in all kinds of interesting places including the Crab nebula and the paintings of the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, who’s up there with Diego Rivera. See:
    and especially this beautiful video illustrating the process in Siqueiros’ work:

    Sidney Perkowitz