Proust Questionnaire: Nicholas Koslan

Koslan spills about teaching, personal life, efforts to kill tumors


Black and White: Physics teacher Nicholas Koslan draws a free body diagram for juniors Lily Prather and Lily Wilson on his class whiteboard. Koslan, a Physics I and II teacher, previously worked with researchers studying the affects of certain chemicals on brain tumors. Photos by Tomas Marrero

Tomas Marrero, staff reporter

The Shield: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Nicholas Koslan: Perfect happiness? I guess it would be playing jazz, I like to play jazz.

TS: What is your greatest fear?

NK: Honestly, it would be dying before I get my kids set up for college.

TS: What is your current state of mind?

NK: Probably anxious. It’s just always like that, teaching is tough.

TS: On what occasions do you lie?

NK: All the time. I tell kids, “You’re gonna do fine, everything’s gonna be ok.” Yeah, all the time. I can’t really pinpoint one area where I lie the most, it mostly has to do with teaching and comforting folks. Keeping everyone nice and calm.

Perfect happiness? I guess it would be playing jazz, I like to play jazz.

— Nicholas Koslan

TS: Which living person do you most despise?

NK: I don’t really despise anyone I know. There’s a lot of people I don’t like, but I wouldn’t say despise. It’s a very strong word. We don’t have a Pol Pot or a Stalin of today, do we? 

TS: Well, there’s the dictator of Venezuela.

NK: Yeah, he is a pretty awful person isn’t he. A lot of Venezuelan politicians are really bad.: Yeah, like I don’t like Trump but I don’t really despise him. 

TS: What is the quality you most like in another person?
NK: There’s a of lot people I do like for sure. And there’s a lot of good qualities out there. I’m trying to pinpoint the one I really like. It’s tough. Top 3? I really liked Obama in how he handled everything. He was always… composed, and never really went negative. I also liked his predecessor, George W. Bush. I know a lot of people didn’t, but I liked him. I think he had a lot of integrity. And history’s actually been fairly kind to him. He did have a lot of integrity, like he did things very opposite of the Republican party like during the recession. So I liked his integrity for things, always doing what mattered. And then the third is, I’d actually say Ronald Reagan. His ability to retract things that didn’t work. If he had a policy that didn’t work, they would stop doing it. Results driven, I guess. When you see the results, don’t say “Oh, we didn’t go far enough”. Look at the result, and let them speak for themselves.

CIRCLE OF QUESTIONS: Nicholas Koslan fields questions from junior Fiona Wyrtzen (left) as well as other students in his second period Physics I class. Photo by Tomas Marrero


TS: Which words or phrases do you overuse the most?

NK: ‘Absolutely.’ I use that a lot. Lots of superlatives, yeah. ‘Great job,’ I do that a lot when kids get it. I say ‘good answer’ a lot, especially for wrong answers I usually say ‘good answer.’ And ‘that’s fair,’ I use that one when I disagree. 

TS: When and where are you most happy?

NK: I am happy with my family all the time.

TS: Which talent would you most like to have? 

NK: I’d like to speak better. Like speech. Like articulating, it’s hard.

TS: What is your greatest Achievement?

NK: I’d have to say my work with ofibolen and calmodulin. Calmodulin is inside highly conservative cross-species. We studied ofibolen, which is a fungo-metabolite, it kills glioblastoma, brain cancer, in nano molar concentrations, really small amounts. So I worked with a team where we analyzed  the magnetism of ophiobolin A, there’s lots of ofibolens.Ofibolen A completely inhibits calmodulin. We found two lysine residues, which is inhibiting. It kills brain cancer, but it’s highly toxic. We don’t know if shutting down calmodulin is [ophiobolin A] mechanism to killing brain cancer, we just know that it does it.

I don’t think I’d want to be someone famous either, they all seem miserable. I guess just me, I wouldn’t want to be anything else

— Nicholas Koslan

TS: If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

NK: It would probably be a person, I don’t think I’d want to be a thing. I’ve never considered that. I don’t think I’d want to be someone famous either, they all seem miserable. I guess just me, I wouldn’t want to be anything else. As a matter of fact we were talking about that the other day, if you could do photosynthesis would you and I would not.

TS: Where would you most like to live?

NK: That’s a good one. There’s lots of places I would like to live. First, anywhere with better weather. I hate the heat, and I’ve lived here all my life. I absolutely hate the heat, so anywhere with better weather. I’d like the northwest, or in Germany somewhere near the mountains.

TS: What is your most treasured possession?

NK: Well, the obvious answer would be my daughter, but that’s not all that interesting. Second to that, I have a 1939 Gibson J35. It’s highly sought after. They made them from ‘37-’42, or something like that, or ‘35-’42. I’ve had it up a couple times, I know Riley, Sam, and Liam have seen it.