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Love as a Catalyst

Feb. 14, 2023

Valentine’s Day, fluffy and pink and - to some - nauseating, is upon us in all its chocolatey, flowery, sugar-coated glory. A time to celebrate the many emotions of the heart and gaze adoringly at romance, Valentine’s Day is not often associated with the practicality and logistics of science. However, taking a closer look at the chemical mechanisms that enable us to feel attachment and romance can help us better appreciate and celebrate love in all its many forms.

From a chemical perspective, love begins with the molecular compounds that construct human hormones. Carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen are the fundamental building blocks for these chemical processes, bonding to create dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline. For a brief overview of those hormones and their chemical compounds, watch this video from AppliedSTEM:

Is it overly poetic to consider that the fundamental elements of which our universe and stars consist is what, molecularly, ignites feelings of love and adoration in ourselves and others? Perhaps. Poetic or not, though, these chemicals are released in a biological reaction that lowers the activation threshold of the brain’s pleasure centers (according to AsapSCIENCE. You can watch their explanation here)2. Thus, love acts as a catalyst for greater happiness, contentment, fulfillment, and appreciation for life. 

This comes as no surprise to students at Brigham Young University, where emulating the example of Jesus Christ in purely loving others, especially exhibited by His miracles and Atonement, drives all personal and academich motivations. Sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU and its students strive to create an environment where, regardless of major, gender, orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation, every student can feel and enjoy the happiness that comes from loving others and being loved in a nurturing community. Perhaps most scientifically unexplainable, and certainly of great import, is the transcendent and transformative love that one can feel and receive from our benevolent Father in Heaven. It harks back to the memory of our eternal identities, a constant reminder to recognize the divinity in others and in ourselves. 

Elements, catalysis, community, deity, gospel, self; maybe love isn’t too poetic, after all. It’s all connected and all logistical; the flow of love from God to humankind, from mother to child, from student to student. Love is sacrificial. It can be messy and tangled and part of an ultimate process; but, isn’t that science? 

What a beautiful science, then, it must be.

  1. "Valentine's Day Chemistry Explain in Valentine's Day Minutes." Applied STEM. February 14, 2022. Video,
  2. "The Science of Love." ASAP Science. February 11, 2013. Video, 0:00:41,

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah 84602


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