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Sweet Science: Olivet College Prof is Chocolate Guru

When researchers in Ghana announced a new way to make chocolate more nutritious, the media knew just who to call: Olivet College’s famed Doc Choc.

You heard that correctly.

Patrick Fields has been a biology professor at the school since 1998. He’s a master botanist, a serious student of sand (more on that later) and renowned expert in paleoecology and paleogeography — the types of plants and terrain that were around when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

He’s known in pop culture, though, as the go-to authority of all things chocolate.

Regularly quoted on TV and magazines about chocolate, Fields has more than just a sweet tooth. He meticulously studies variations of the Theobroma cocoa — the small evergreen known as the cocoa tree whose seeds are used to make chocolate.

“There’s complexity on all levels: its chemistry, people’s response to it, the complexity of all the kinds offered,” Doc Choc says in one of several talks about chocolate.

It’s an interest he traces to his childhood in Palo Alto, California, where loved Hershey’s and See’s Candies. During that time, he also fell in love with sand. Yes, the kind that gets in between your toes at the beach. He’s an avid arenophile – a sand collector – searching the world for samples of ancient and modern sand and trades it with other collectors.

The affection isn’t limited to scholarship — although he has served as president of the Michigan Botanical Foundation and on the board of the Doty Native Wildflower Association.

Fields also writes poems about chocolate and sand.

That’s the sort of passion that thrives at Olivet and other Michigan independent colleges and universities. Their faculty don’t just know subjects. They live it and love it. And they cherish sharing it with students.

Awesome faculty is just part of what makes Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities unique. They’re smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.