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Posts Tagged → Natalie Portman

Ivan Drago Was … A Chemical Engineer?

Lundgren could've been a chemical engineer. Credit: flickr user Anime Nut

That’s right. You heard me. The strapping young fellow who played Ivan Drago, the Russian killing machine, in “Rocky IV” was a chemical engineer before he took up acting. Who knew? Well, maybe you already knew that actor Dolph (Hans) Lundgren was smart, but I sure didn’t.

Newscripts reader and ACS employee Pamela J. Zaebst of Columbus, Ohio, recently sent in a link to a list of “10 Highly Educated Celebrities” on UPI.com, and Lundgren is on there. He supposedly has an IQ of 160, securing him a position in the Newscripts chemistry-minded celebrity Hall of Fame with actress Natalie Portman.

Lundgren, according to his official website, was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. He studied chemical engineering, following in his father’s footsteps, at the Royal Institute of Technology in his home city. After graduation, he headed to the University of Sydney, in Australia, to earn a master’s degree in chemical engineering.

And from there, he just couldn’t be stopped (I said he was a killing machine). He actually got a Fulbright scholarship to attend MIT. But, as his website says, “the academic world could not make him fully satisfied.” In other words, he met a woman and changed his life plans. Continue reading →

Natalie Portman: Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Uber Talented

Credit: Flickr user ppjumpping

As if it weren’t enough to win the 2011 Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of a ballerina coming unhinged in “Black Swan,” Natalie Portman is apparently also blessed with science smarts.  A 1998 Journal of Chemical Education paper recently came across the Newscripts desk that the 29-year-old actress—then Natalie Hershlag, a high school student in Syosset, N.Y.—coauthored.

The article, “A Simple Method To Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar,” was the result of an independent-study project carried out by Portman during her sophomore year at Syosset High. Intended to illustrate “environmentally friendly biotechnology for the utilization of renewable energy sources,” the work earned Portman a semifinalist position that year in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search, an annual competition organized by the Society for Science & the Public.

The laboratory instructions Portman helped develop aim to teach high schoolers and undergraduates the principles of enzyme-catalyzed reactions by instructing them how to break down cellulose with a combination of cellulase, glucose dehydrogenase, and hydrogenase. The amount of hydrogen evolved in the process is indicated by a simple redox dye, benzyl viologen.

“Natalie was an excellent student with an excellent work ethic,” says Jonathan Woodward, Portman’s coauthor and adviser at the time. He was then at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and now teaches high school chemistry in Knoxville, Tenn. “I am certain she would have excelled in chemistry had her career taken that path.”