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The Chemistry of Competition

Jacob Hooker

After Jacob Hooker received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley he had two more goals: to find his perfect job, and to compete in an Ironman competition. Hooker, who originally hails from North Carolina, had a keen interest in fundamental chemistry and thought he could be useful to the staff in the Center for Translational Neuroimaging (CTN) at the Lab. Lab scientist Joanna Fowler agreed and last year she asked Hooker to join the CTN team.

During the day Hooker spends his time developing novel methods to label molecules that can be used for neuroimaging to study root causes of addiction. "To synthesize a molecule and then visualize it in living systems is very seductive," said Hooker. "BNL is one of the few places in the world where this can be done. I'm already finding the work challenging and rewarding."

But, when he isn't working with molecules, Hooker is reward seeking and doing something else he loves -- training for long distance triathlon competitions, also known as the "Ironman." The competitions consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run. What's his motivation? "Besides the self-satisfaction of completing the triathlon, I have a group of friends who also participate and we have a sort of personal competition among ourselves. It's all about getting together, cheering each other on, and having fun," said Hooker.

It's a rigorous training module. Hooker keeps active most of the time, but when he is training for a competition he will spend up to 30 hours per week and trains for up to six months prior to the competition.

He will next compete in Panama City, Florida this coming November. "Triathlons are a professional sport and it's been great shaking hands with some of the finest athletes in the world, but there's nothing more euphoric than crossing the finish line," he said.

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