Saturday, July 14, 2007

Fish, formula, FG David


Back in the UP Diliman, in our Psychology 115 class- Experimental Psychology- we were tasked to apply laboratory techniques with the appropriate statistical analysis learned on the study of certain subjects, usually animals. My laboratory partner Cheryl, one of my best friends from high school, put together an experiment to train fish, black mollies if memory serves me right.

We got an aquarium, divided it into two sections lengthwise about ¾ of the way, with a different colored light at either half of the partition. Whenever the green light was turned on, we would simultaneously drop fish food into that side of the partition which prompted the fish to go there. When we turned the red light on at the other end, we would not drop any pellets. We wanted to know if we can train fish to go to the side of the aquarium whenever the green light was turned on even if no pellets were dropped. We wanted to find out if mollies were trainable. Were they?

We don’t know. We didn’t get the chance to finish the experiment. We got to the laboratory one morning and found that the fish were all dead. They died a few days before the papers were due. There was no time to make another set-up. We were doomed. Of course, with him as our professor, it was doubly taxing considering that he is the pre-eminent experimental psychology professor in the department. Cheryl and I contemplated on how to tell him our predicament without sounding like bungling buffoons. We could try to but, nah; there was no way we’d get away with faking our data. So we decided to tell him what happened.

With much trepidation, we approached him.

Sir, all our fish died. What should we do?

What should you do? Bury them!


And with that, he joined the ranks of teachers whom I remember with utmost fondness, never to be relegated to the Abyss of Those Whom We Must Forget And/Or Regret To Have Known.

Now that he’s entered the top of my consciousness again, I begin to see that the dossier I have on him in my head is not really a thick one:

All it contains is a mental snapshot of his utterly professorial bearing, his grandfatherly aura, with that knowing twinkle in his eye…

I remember him launching into a 10-, 15-minute monologue on the first day of class, about the weather outside, with matching reminiscences of pre-automobile UP campus and the foliage that made walking a joy (no doubt prompted by the cacophony of jeepneys plying the road in front of Palma Hall Annex which drowned his soft, mild-mannered speaking)...

I remember his hours-long final exam (was it from 2-6 pm?) where we were made to derive the formula for the Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) - replete with SS-within and SS-without…

I remember his advice to bury our mollies…

I remember his jacket and his distinct cloth headgear- I don’t know what it’s called but whenever I see it, it makes me want to call him a chap from New York in the 1930’s…

I took his class primarily because it has been advised by not a few people that you must not get your bachelor’s degree in psychology without taking a course under him. Needless to say, his reputation preceded him always, made him larger than life. But his candor and humor in the classroom, seeming mismatch to what students and other faculty members paint him to be, made him a most remarkable human being.

About two years ago, Cheryl bullied me into taking her to back to the UP Diliman campus where she hasn’t stepped on since working in Dubai. We took photos of the Oblation, we toured the campus, retraced the paths we took from one building to another. We then decided to crash into the house of another friend who lived just behind the Shopping Center.

We followed the route the jeepneys took, went past the SC and made a right turn when we reached the Post Office. As we turned, we passed by this elderly gentleman walking with an infant’s stroller before him.

No way.

Was it really him?

To find out, I hastily made a U-turn. By this time, they were in front of the Kalayaan Residence Hall. I drove slowly in order to better appreciate his features. IT WAS HIM! We were so excited!

We drove past him again, pondering on whether to say hello or not, and if we would do so, when and how. By the time we decided we’d say hi, I already reached the Molave Residence Hall where I made another U-turn. I slowed down the car as we were passing by him, but nerves got the better of us and we drove away from them. I hope we didn’t scare him.

That’s the last time we saw him up and about on this earth. But what a good last memory he left- him taking, presumably, his grandchild out on an early evening stroll, in the campus that he dearly loved, possibly talking about the things that were, that is, and that can be…

For all that you’ve done for all of us, for the art and science of teaching and learning Psychology in the UP- thank you, Dr. David! Good night and rest well.

(The remains of Dr. F.G. David lie in state at the Chapel 11 of La Funeraria Paz in Araneta Avenue, Quezon City. Interment is on July 21st 10am. You may call their office +632.749.3806 for other details.)

7 comments:

  1. Would've commented on the fishkill, but this turned out to be a tribute. Nice of you to say good words re your teacher. I hope I'd deserve the same thing one day.

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  2. ditto.

    too bad you didn't get the chance to meet him...

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  3. As it is quite impossible for me to fly to La Paz from Philly, please send my deepest sympathies to the family, ian. One of my fondest memories of Dr. David was his advise to NOT highlight my thick, beautiful, colorful Psych book; according to him, books should be respected and treasured. UP Psych may have lost a pillar, but his legacy lives on in our hearts.

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  4. that's dr. david for you: old school charm, with the right sprinkling of wisdom and practicality. we went to his wake a couple of days ago. it was full of students from various era. heartening =]

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  5. reminds me of my exprimental psychology days...two of my friends who experimented on rats, and before they could finish their project, their rats have been devoured by my friend's cat.

    nice blog!

    psych major here too!

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  6. inkblots: collateral damage... all in the spirit of science and exploration...

    thanks for dropping by and leaving trails =]

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  7. thanks for the write up on Dr. David I also wrote one for him too.

    Shine on!

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