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Get an insider’s view of science at MU Life Science event April 6, 2018

Posted by diannaobrien in Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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Science isn’t all test tubes, experiments and instruments. The biography, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks,” provides an insider’s point of view of a scientist’s life from his struggles to gain instruments to his personal challenges.

The book will be on sale from 3:30-4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 9, 2018, outside the Monsanto Auditorium in the Bond Life Sciences Center building. The book will be available at one of MU’s major scientific gathering, Life Sciences Week 2018, according to the website.

From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

The book is a biography of longtime Columbia resident and MU biochemistry professor Charles W. Gehrke, 1917-2009, who also founded a scientific company which employed 300 people before it was bought out by a global firm in 2015.

Science on offer

Life Sciences Week brings together more than 300 scientific researchers offering presentations, talks and exhibits, according to the website for the event. The event highlights the research “of undergraduate, graduate, professional students, faculty and staff,” according to the website.

The book will be offered prior to and after the Dr. Charles W. Gehrke Distinguished Lecture presentation by Richard Caprioli titled, “Advances in Imaging Mass Spectrometry:  Molecular Microscopy in the New Age of Discovery.”

Caprioli is the Stanford Moore Professor of Biochemistry and director of the Mass Spectrometry Research Center at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.  His accolades include receiving the 2014 Distinguished Contribution to Mass Spectrometry Award by the American Society for Mass Spectrometry.

His areas of research include a special interest in cancer tissues.

MU’s first mass spectrometer

In the book, “Melon Fields to Moon Rocks,” Charles W. Gehrke describes combining a National Science Foundation $500,000 grant with funds from MU to buy the university’s first new mass spectrometer in 1982. He and his team at the Experiment Station Chemical Laboratories had been teaching mass spectrometry since 1968 with a used mass spectrometer.

Cancer hits home
Gehrke would have had a special appreciation for Caprioli’s talk. One of the challenges in his personal life was his wife Virginia’s experience with cancer. Later in Gehrke’s career he worked on trying to find a way to detect cancer early via analysis of blood, serum and urine in the hope of sparring cancer patients from the invasive, painful detection and treatment procedures.
Moon rocks
Gehrke’s work went beyond this world. He was one of the analysts of the samples of moon rocks brought back from the Apollo NASA space flights and proved when other scientists couldn’t that there was no life on the moon.
Rags to riches
But Gehrke didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth nor did he even plan on going to college. It was with the support of his brother and his high school teachers that he was set on the path out of poverty into success as a teacher, scientist, and entrepreneur.
Charles W. Gehrke, circa 1928.

Charles W. Gehrke as a boy, circa 1928.

Learn how Gehrke went from a small town in Ohio to life in Columbia, guiding a laboratory at MU and building with the help of Jim Ussary and David Stalling, a company that employed hundreds of MU grads.

Can’t wait?

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

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The book is available in Columbia at Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., the Columbia Mall bookstore Barnes & Noble and the bookstore at Boone County History and Culture Center at 3801 Ponderosa St.

The book was published March 2017 by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker.

Or buy it here now and have a signed copy shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

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Paul Pepper and Melon Fields January 31, 2018

Posted by diannaobrien in Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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Paul Pepper talks about “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks,” on his show Radio Friends with Paul Pepper. Hear and see author Dianna O’Brien talk about the book.

The show was broadcast on Jan. 31, 2018 — but the book is always for sale at Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., in downtown Columbia, the Columbia Mall bookstore Barnes & Noble and the bookstore at Boone County History and Culture Center at 3801 Ponderosa St.

You can also buy a signed copy of the book for $20 plus tax and shipping by clicking “Buy Now” below.

Dianna O’Brien is available for talks and presentations. You can contact her at dobrien387@gmail.com or by telephone at 573.424.5749.

The book is also available in an electronic form from Barnes & Noble, amazon.com. or buy a signed copy via this website for $20 plus tax and shipping.

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Melon Fields to Moon Rocks: Charles W. Gehrke biography January 15, 2018

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Eurofins.
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“From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks” is a biography celebrating the life and accomplishments of Charles W. Gehrke, 1917-2009. The book was written through a collaboration between Charles and Dianna Borsi O’Brien prior to his death.

O’Brien is available for talks and presentations. You can contact her at dobrien387@gmail.com or by telephone at 573.424.5749.

The book was published in March 2017 and a signed copy can be purchased below. The book also is available in Columbia at Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., the Columbia Mall bookstore Barnes & Noble and the bookstore at Boone County History and Culture Center at 3801 Ponderosa St.

You can get it electronically from Barnes & Noble, amazon.com. or buy a signed copy via this website for $20 plus tax and shipping.

You can also buy a signed copy of the book for $20 plus tax and shipping by clicking “Buy Now” below.

Buy Now Button

So what’s “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks” about?

Charles W. Gehrke was unflinching. Determined. Persistent.

He grew up among the poorest of the poor, yet carried only happy memories of those early years. Out of necessity, he learned the value of hard work, as he and his brother helped support their family even as children — but he never complained and never stopped working even during his final days on this earth.

In the 1960s, his work searching for amino acids, the building blocks of life, drew the attention of NASA which would soon launch missions to the moon. Charles was tapped to investigate the lunar samples for signs of life. Spoiler alert: He didn’t find any — but a transcript uncovered of a radio program from that time shows that he thought he would.

In 1968, he did something else unusual at the time and brought his research to the marketplace, launching ABC Labs, a firm that employed about 300 people prior to its buy out by global firm EAG Laboratories and later purchase by Eurofins Scientific. Eurofins is a Brussels-based firm with EUR 2.54 in annual revenues, 30,000 employees and 375 sites in 41 countries, according to this Dec. 4, 2017 Eurofins news release.

The book doesn’t ignore the difficulties in Charles’s life. His oldest son was killed in a plane crash in 1982 and his death haunted Charles all his life. Another dark time took place during the early 1990s when Charles found himself embroiled in a vicious power struggle that threatened to sink ABC Labs.

Despite those and other difficulties, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks” is a rags-to-riches story that highlights the adventurous life of Charles W. Gehrke, a biochemist, entrepreneur, and family man.

Local author day at Columbia Library October 11, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events, Uncategorized.
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Mark your calendar! From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Oct. 28, you’ll have another chance to get a copy of “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.” The Columbia Public Library is hosting a Local Author Open House at 100 W. Broadway.
I’ll be sharing the space with dozens of other local, mid-Missouri authors offering their books, so it’s your chance to stock up on books for yourself or for gifts for Christmas!
I’ll be selling books and will be accepting cash or credit cards. Softbacks are $20 each.
ABC Laboratories, local firm, now gone global
The book is a biography of longtime Columbia resident and MU biochemistry professor Charles W. Gehrke, 1917-2009, founder of ABC Laboratories, which has since been bought by a global firm. The company employed 300 people and was started by Gehrke and two of his former students in 1968.
Moon Rocks
Gehrke also analyzed samples of moon rocks brought back from the Apollo NASA space flights and proved when other scientists couldn’t that there was no life on the moon.
Rags to riches
But Gehrke didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth nor did he even plan on going to college. It was with the support of his brother and his high school teachers that he was set on the path out of poverty into success as a teacher, scientist, and entrepreneur.
Charles W. Gehrke, circa 1928.

Charles W. Gehrke as a boy, circa 1928.

Learn how Gehrke went from a small town in Ohio to life in Columbia, guiding a laboratory at MU and building with the help of Jim Ussary and David Stalling, a company that employed hundreds of MU grads.

Can’t wait?

Have it shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

The book is available in Columbia at Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., the Columbia Mall bookstore Barnes & Noble and the bookstore at Boone County History and Culture Center at 3801 Ponderosa St.

The book was published March 2017 by Yolanda Ciolli’s firm, Compass Flower Press, and designed by Ginny Booker.

Or buy it here now and have a signed copy shipped to you directly for $20, plus tax and shipping.

Buy Now Button

Humble beginnings of a global firm September 26, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General.
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A company that got its start with an MU professor and two MU graduates is now poised to widen its global reach.

Charles W. Gehrke started ABC Labs with David Stalling and Jim Ussary in 1968 in Columbia, Missouri. Soon it will be a part of Eurofins Scientific, a Brussels-based firm with EUR 2.54 in annual revenues, 30,000 employees and 375 sites in 41 countries, according to a Eurofins news release announcing the acquisition.

The humble beginnings of this global firm are highlighted in the book “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.”  A biography of Charles Gehrke, it walks you through his scientific adventure as well as his personal life. Starting with Charles working in the farm fields of Canal Lewisville, Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachians the book continues through his life to the creation of a scientific team that analyzed the moon rocks from the NASA moon landings and then on to the founding of a firm that employed 300 people before it was sold in 2015 to EAG Laboratories.

The book is a biography of Charles Gehrke and walks you through his scientific adventure which starts with Charles working in the farm fields of Canal Lewisville, Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachians and follows his life to the creation of a scientific team that analyzed the moon rocks from the NASA moon landings and then on to the founding of a firm that employed 300 people before it was sold in 2015 to EAG Laboratories.

The book is available in Columbia at Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., the Columbia Mall bookstore Barnes & Noble and the bookstore at Boone County History and Culture Center at 3801 Ponderosa St.

You can get it electronically from Barnes & Noble, amazon.com or buy it via this website and you’ll get it by mail for $20 plus tax and shipping.Buy Now Button

 

 

Columbia’s Smithsonian connection September 6, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in Charles W. Gehrke General.
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Sometimes Washington, D.C., with its amazing Smithsonian museums and political glitz and glitter can seem far away, but a bit of Columbia has made its way to the National Air and Space Musem — and soon copies of the book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks,” will be on their way there, too.

In 1986, Charles W. Gehrke donated to the Smithsonian a Varian 4 2100 series column gas chromatography, Cat. 1987 0137000. The instrument was literally used to analyze out of this world substances — all the moon samples returned from the 1969-1972 Apollo moon missions.

Don’t rush to Washington to see the instrument. It’s in storage like millions of other items at the Smithsonian, but knowing a bit of Columbia is there is thrilling.

I’ve been in touch with Matthew Shindell, of the Space History Department at the National Air and Space Museum, and he said the museum would be happy to receive copies of the book and will keep them in the research library for the use of curators and visiting researchers. Shindell said, “I am sure they will help us to understand Gehrke’s work and the instrument in our collection.”

In addition, it turns out Shindell is writing a book about Dr. Harold Urey, a scientist man who influenced Gehrke and who is mentioned in the book I’ll be sending to Shindell.

But now I’m curious about other Smithsonian connections from Columbia. Do you know of any other items from Columbia that have found their way to the national museums?

Are you curious about the book that’s heading to Washington? You can get a copy of the book about the life and scientific adventure of Gehrke at the downtown bookstore, Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., the Columbia Mall bookstore Barnes & Noble and the shop at Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St.

You can get it electronically from Barnes & Noble, amazon.com or buy it via this website and I’ll mail you the book for $20 plus tax and shipping.Buy Now Button

Now, what else do you know that hailed from Columbia, Missouri and in a national museum?

 

Five reasons to buy this book July 3, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in Charles W. Gehrke General.
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OK, maybe six reasons, but really, you should buy From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks, because, like carrots, it will be good for you.From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

  1. 1. Let’s face it, no matter what side you are on, the news can be depressing. Take a break from that with this feel-good biography of Charles W. Gehrke, a man who started out as a poor kid, peddling radishes door-to-door with his brother and then went on to became a successful husband, father, scientist and entrepreneur. His success was due to things all of us can celebrate: family support, education, networking, friendship and an unwavering belief in himself.
  2. 2. Enjoy a reading stroll through history with this book, through a time when wheat was stacked in the fields, pest management meant trapping rats in a barn, college professors joined bowling leagues, kids spent summers swimming in a local quarry swimming hole and no knew whether there was life on the moon or not.
  3. From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks highlights the best of the USA, a place where someone could get an education, find a life partner, develop a career in biochemistry devoted to helping other scientists make discoveries and turn that knowledge into a successful firm that employed 300 people before it was bought out in 2015 by a global firm.
  4. Let’s be blunt here. Buying this book will support the local economy including me, the author Dianna Borsi O’Brien, and the local venues where it is for sale, Yellow Dog Bookshop, 8 S. Ninth St., Barnes & Noble in the Columbia Mall and the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St.
  5. This book will also increase your own and the world’s peace and quiet. We all know you might have neighbors who will be firing off fireworks starting last week and for the next week or so to celebrate the Fourth of July. Really? We need more noise in this world? No, we don’t. So grab this book, settle down for a nice read of a sweet story of a poor boy who made good and enjoy the holiday.

What? Don’t want to get our of your stay-at-home clothes to get the book? No worries. You can get it electronically from Barnes & Noble, amazon.com or buy it via this website and I’ll mail you the book for $20 plus tax and shipping.Buy Now Button

Steve Weinberg and From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks June 21, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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Steve Weinberg, a Columbia-based investigative journalist and author of six books, will be introducing Dianna Borsi O’Brien at the Thursday, June 22 reading/signing of From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks.

The event will be 5 to 7 p.m. in the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St. If you can’t attend, the book will continue to be on sale at the BCHS as well as Yellow Dog Bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St.

Of course, all books are works of many hands, but in this case, Weinberg literally helped the book get started.

In 2007, Jon Gehrke called Weinberg about possibly working with Charles W. Gehrke to write his biography but Weinberg didn’t have space in his schedule. So Weinberg suggested Jon Gehrke call his former graduate student and fellow journalist O’Brien — and as they say, the rest is history.

From 2007 to 2009, O’Brien and Charles W. Gehrke worked on the book that outlines Gehrke’s childhood, from his childhood poverty growing up in Canal Lewisville, Ohio, near Coshocton, to his education at Ohio State University to his arrival at the University of Missouri, his NASA work analyzing the moon rocks of the Apollo mission, founding of ABC Labs, which employed 300 people prior to its 2015 buyout, and his family life along the way.

Yet, the book was more than the product of Gehrke and O’Brien’s efforts. The University of Missouri Archives office found crucial materials including a recording of a radio show from the 1970s that featured Gehrke speculating that scientists might actually find life on the moon, something we scoff at today.

Dozens of people gave their time during interviews, replied to email queries and helped during the reporting process for the book. Then when the manuscript was ready, the first edit was done by Karen Pojmann, a fellow journalist who has worked as an editor with several publications. The manuscript went through several other edits as well as the design process by Ginny Booker and publishing processes by Yolanda Ciolli of Compass Flower Press.

And along the way, Weinberg was there with suggestions, support and guidance. Now, he’ll get to give the introduction before the reading and book signing of the author of a book he literally started.

Other options

Can’t attend?

  • Come to see O’Brien at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Barnes & Noble in the Columbia Mall for local author’s day.
  • Yellow Dog Bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St. has the book on its shelves.
  • Contact O’Brien via this website and receive the book by mail for $20 plus tax and shipping.  Buy Now Button
  • The book is on amazon.com as well.

 

 

 

Learn the hows and whys of a fine pairing June 20, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in ABC Labs, Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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On Thursday at a book signing and reading, author Dianna Borsi O’Brien will be talking about how and why the book From the Melon Fields to Moon Rocks came about.

The signing and reading will be 5 to 7 p.m. on June 22 in the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St.

The book is a biography of a man, entrepreneur and scientist, a result that came about through a fine pairing of a determined man, Charles W. Gehrke, and a persistent, determined journalist. Yes, a fine pairing.

It all started when Jon Gehrke called O’Brien and said he was looking for a writer to help his father write his life’s story. He said they already had a title for the book. O’Brien asked why his father deserved a book. Yes, journalists ask those kind of rude questions.

From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks cover 032917

Jon said his father was an internationally known scientist. In Columbia, with the University of Missouri and two other colleges, the journalist said, those kinds of experts are fairly common. Jon said his father was an entrepreneur as well, having founded ABC Labs, now EAG Laboratories.

O’Brien noted again that in Columbia, Missouri, there are many entrepreneurs. Finally, the journalist noted something unusual about this interchange. The son of a well-known scientist and entrepreneur was calling. Not all successful scientists and business people manage to maintain close, warm family ties that would spur a son to call a cranky, questioning journalist like O’Brien.

Finally, O’Brien said she’d take the job if and only if Charles Gehrke called her. She had no interest in working with someone who wasn’t as determined about the project as she would be.

Several months later, Gehrke called O’Brien to set up a lunch meeting. During that first meeting, the last crucial hurdle came when O’Brien asked Gehrke if he wanted a biography that glossed over anything unpleasant or would she have the freedom to tell about whatever she found? The answer was tell it the way it was.

A fine pairing indeed. The two worked together from 2007 until Gehrke’s 2009 death. Then O’Brien continued to finish the book, using archival materials Gehrke had had stored in his basement, documents from the University of Missouri archives and family archives. Research for the book included interviews with dozens of Gehrke’s family members, friends, associates and former scientist colleagues.

The book, said John Bucksath, an employee of ABC Labs from 1989-2015, including three years as president and CEO, is accurate and concise, and reveals the chemistry that made Gehrke special. He noted, “Anyone who thinks they know Dr. Gehrke’s story should read this book to truly understand the man’s contribution not only to science, but his legacy to his family, the Columbia, Missouri community and beyond.”

The book signing and reading will include a more prosaic pairing. It will include light refreshments and soft drinks and wine for adults. The book will be for sale with or without the signature of the author.

Come and learn how the book went from a son’s suggestion to a biography of a man who rose from poverty to scientific stature that led to his opportunity to analyze moon rocks and start a company that employed 300 people prior to its 2015 buyout by EAG Laboratories.

 

 

 

Four solutions to an over-packed schedule June 15, 2017

Posted by diannaobrien in Charles W. Gehrke General, Events.
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Yikes! I know the feeling. You just can’t fit everything in and you’re not going to be able to attend the 5-7 p.m. Thursday, June 22 reading of From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks at the Boone County Historical Society. But you still want to get your hands on that book!

Charles W. Gehrke, circa 1928.

Charles W. Gehrke as a boy, circa 1928.

Aside from the tragedy of not getting to enjoy the mini-cupcakes at the reading, don’t worry. Here are four ways to get the book without coming to the reading.

Come to see me at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Barnes & Noble in the Columbia Mall for local author’s day. I’ll be there with bookmarks to hand out! I’ll have chocolate, too. Not mini-cupcakes, but close.

  • Yellow Dog Bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St. — Yes, that cute little bookshop downtown right across the street from Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream — almost like mini-cupcakes! — Has the book on its shelves.
  • Contact me via this website and I’ll mail the book to you! Easy peasy, through the old fashioned snail mail system for $20 plus tax and shipping. And you don’t even have to get out of your jammies. Just click below.Buy Now Button 
  • The book is on amazon.com, too! I haven’t checked, but you could probably order mini-cupcakes from the online behemoth. Again, all in your jammies.

If none of these options work, really, I’d love to see you at the book reading at the Boone County Historical Society at 3801 Ponderosa St. It’s just 5-7 p.m. and I’ll even sign your book for you!