Department of Chemistry – Education Vision

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The Department of Chemistry is seeking a tenure-track faculty member to lead the Department’s undergraduate education efforts and to build a strong and well-funded program in chemical education research.  Candidates at the rank of associate or full professor are preferred, including those who wish to be considered for an endowed-chair position. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to contribute to the general chemistry program and the development of an integrated science education program as part of the newly completed Crocker Science Center.  The faculty member will teach in the Chemistry Department, with teaching responsibilities commensurate with research-active faculty members. We seek a long-term colleague who will be fully integrated into our Department and also affiliated with the Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME).

Read below for an overview of the department and its goals, priorities, and educational initiatives.

Department Overview

The Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah is committed to excellence in research and teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.  Its mission is:

  • To provide the highest-quality education for undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral scientists in the various sub-disciplines of chemistry, in order to prepare them for careers in industry, academia, medicine, and allied fields.
  • To obtain new knowledge through cutting-edge research in the field of chemistry.
  • To provide an introduction to modern topics in chemistry to undergraduate students in other departments.
  • To instill an appreciation of ethical considerations in science and a culture of diversity, safety, and sustainability.
  • To enhance scientific literacy and promote an appreciation of the importance of chemistry to society at large.

In 2017-18, the Department of Chemistry awarded:

  • 75 Bachelor’s degrees (including 9 Honors degrees)
  • 19 Masters degrees
  • 36 Ph.D. degrees
Current Education Initiatives

Current Undergraduate Education Initiatives:

Innovations in the General Chemistry Program

Chemical education research has driven recent improvements to our General Chemistry Program.  These initiatives include the development of a computerized grading algorithm for online homework assignments that identifies topics in which a student is weak.  After each assignment, the student is provided an individualized report, showing how their scores could improve with more study on the identified weaknesses. Another innovation has been to require students to take practice exams before the real exam is given, and to get them to estimate their performance on each practice exam before they take it.  This metacognitive training enables poorly prepared students to develop a more realistic assessment of their knowledge and of the amount of study required to do well. These innovations have had a profound effect, improving the class average percentile score on the standardized ACS general chemistry exam by 20 points.

Undergraduate Seminar Course

First-year Chemistry majors and transfer students are required to attend a weekly seminar to build a cohesive community and to familiarize students with campus and departmental resources.  Topics covered in the course include resume building, self-care resources, ethics in science, and careers in chemistry. An important innovation is to match new students with advanced student mentors who can guide them in navigating the university bureaucracy, learning how to communicate with faculty, etc.  Both the incoming students and the more advanced majors benefit from this peer-mentor relationship.

Learning Assistant Program

The Chemistry Department participates in the new College of Science Learning Assistant (LA) Program.  LAs have weekly preparation sessions and a pedagogy course that train them in evidence-based active learning approaches in the classroom.  The LAs then work with graduate teaching assistants (TAs) and professors to implement these approaches in select courses.

Ron and Eileen Ragsdale Colloquium Series in Chemical Education

As part of his endowment to the University, Professor Emeritus Ronald O. Ragsdale has established a Colloquium Series to bring in one speaker per year who is making outstanding contributions to chemical education across the U.S. and the world.  Initiated in 2012, this program has now brought in speakers from the U.S., Sweden, Germany, and Australia.

Integrated Science Curriculum Development through the Crocker Science Center

As part of the newly opened Crocker Science Center, the Chemistry Department is currently engaged with the other departments in the College of Science in the development of an integrated science curriculum.  The goal is to leverage the interconnections between math and science to help students build more facile and enduring knowledge.

Current High School and Educational Outreach Initiatives:

Summer Chemistry Enrichment Program

The Chemistry Department offers a rigorous summer chemistry enrichment program for qualified high school students.  The goal is to provide rich opportunities for students to deepen their knowledge of Chemistry and heighten their enthusiasm for science in general.  The program is intense – students meet 5 days per week, 5-½ hours per day for 6 weeks and receive 8 hours of college credit toward University of Utah graduation requirements.  In addition to attending lectures and doing laboratory work, students also interact with guest speakers, for example, from the Utah Poison Control Center. Field trips are also organized to local industries and national laboratories.

AP Chemistry Laboratories

The Chemistry Department provides opportunities for high school students who are enrolled in AP Chemistry to do the associated laboratory work in our facilities, providing a pre-lab lecture and using the high school teachers as the teaching assistants.  This program is supervised by the Chemistry Department.

Supervision of College-Level Chemistry Classes at the AMES School

High school students at the Academy for Math, Engineering, and Science have the opportunity to take the college-level CHEM 1210/1220 General Chemistry course sequence while in high school.  While these courses are taught by teachers employed by AMES, the program is supervised by the Department of Chemistry.

Enrichment Workshops for High School Advanced Placement Chemistry Teachers

Twice per year, the Chemistry Department offers a 3- to 4-hour weekend workshop for high school chemistry teachers.  The teachers hear a seminar on a topic of their choice, for example photoelectron spectroscopy, entropy, or chemical bonding.  This event is supplemented by a seminar by an expert in chemical education, usually from outside the University. Speakers have included Utah State Board of Education officials speaking about state educational standards and members of the Advanced Placement Chemistry Board, who describe how the questions for the AP exams are selected and graded.  

Participation in the Masters of Science Program for Secondary School Teachers

In support of the Master of Science for Secondary School Teachers (MSSST) degree, which is sponsored by the Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME), individual members of the Chemistry Department participate by accepting high school teachers into their research group during the summer months.

Goals & Priorities in Education
  • Pursue chemical education research to find teaching methodologies that work for students at all ability levels and work to implement the best teaching methodologies in our department.
  • Participate in an interdisciplinary science and math education research program in the College of Science.
  • Sustain and expand the existing educational initiatives and continue to work in collaboration with the College of Education, the Center for Science & Mathematics Education, K-12 public schools, and the Utah State Board of Education.
Key Education Personnel
  • Holly Sebahar, Professor (Lecturer)
  • Jeff Statler, Associate Professor (Lecturer)
  • Sushma Saraf, Assistant Professor (Lecturer)
  • Jon Rainier, Professor and Vice-Chair (Academic Affairs)

Questions about the faculty cluster search should be directed to the search coordinator, emily.gaines@utah.edu