It’s only 9:00 AM but the Texas sun had already been blistering every moving creature outside. Drought was in the extended forecast that year, and temperatures were expected to be in the triple digits for the next two days. My feet were cold. I primped myself up and fidgeted around, as if it mattered, and for the first time I stepped into the office of Professor Manuel P. Soriaga.
The room was august in its order and simplicity. Books on the shelves were perfectly aligned from spine to spine. Definitely a family man, I surmised, as I saw pictures of his wife and three children, bedecked along with his plaques and certificates. My eyes wandered to a shiny, yellow M&M mascot by the corner table, blissfully waiting for an eternal high-five. Manny gazed at me with poker-face intensity and started to explain the rubrics of his laboratory. The declarations were concise but powerful: You work hard. You cooperate with members who need your help. You can work on any topic we agree upon. You take short vacations. Years later, these would be the same rules I would gratefully reiterate to many high-school, undergraduate, and graduate trainees I had the pleasure to work with in his laboratory. Manny stood up, shook my hand, wished me luck – and then gave me my first quiz that broke the ice of that encounter: How do you get your candies from the M&M mascot?