Department News

Bren wins 2017 Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

March 31, 2017

kara-brenThe University of Rochester has announced that Chemistry Professor Kara L. Bren has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The award will be presented to Professor Bren at the College Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 21, 2017. Kara received strong nomination letters from both current and former colleagues and undergraduate students.  Kara’s students described her enthusiasm for teaching chemistry, and provided passionate testimonials of how she has been an enormous influence in their budding scientific careers. A common thread in all the student letters is that Kara deepened their interest in science, especially Chemistry, and that as a result the interactions between Kara and these students were life-altering.

As a lecturer, Kara has a history of bringing fresh ideas to the classes in which she is teaching. For many years Kara taught Chemistry 211, the Department’s primary undergraduate course on inorganic chemistry, which is normally taken by chemistry majors in their junior year. Kara presented the material in CHM 211 in several new and interesting ways that resulted in more effective learning.  These innovations included the introduction of workshops, linking the course material to chemical history, using mnemonics to memorize the periodic table, and introducing short guest lectures by graduate students. One student wrote, “Dr. Bren did an amazing job conveying very complex ideas in ways that I was able to understand. She fostered interest in the subject by giving examples of what real-world chemists do in each field of inorganic chemistry we studied.”

Kara has developed two new graduate courses that are also taken by undergraduates, CHM 414 (Bioinorganic Chemistry) and CHM 406 (Chemistry-Biology Interface). Both courses introduce students to a specialized area of chemistry, and provide exercises to help students develop the skills that they need to be successful as scientific professionals.  The classes included reading and discussion of classic and current scientific literature, writing an original research proposal, and the development of presentation skills.

We congratulate Kara on this well-deserved honor!


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