Recognizing the difficulty many students have with the junior/senior-level physical chemistry sequence, the American Chemical Society sells a bumper sticker that reads, “Honk if you passed P. Chem!”
At Mizzou, Carol Deakyne teaches physical chemistry, a rigorous course requiring students to use what they’ve learned so far in chemistry, physics and calculus. Her zeal to ensure student success helps ease their anxiety.
“I ask them the first day of class to work with me to make the experience as rewarding and painless as possible,” Deakyne says.“ I make it clear that I will help them develop the tools they need to be successful in the course, but ultimately they must take responsibility for their own success or failure.”
One nominator writes, “Carol has demonstrated that she can make chemical thermodynamics and kinetics more than just survivable; she has shown that these subjects can be fascinating and worthy of further study.”
“Dr. Deakyne takes a real interest in her students and their success,” a student writes. “Despite the intense and complex nature of the class, she skillfully broke down the materials into incredibly well-organized lectures and was always able to offer alternative explanations whenever the students had questions.”
Deakyne’s teaching is not confined to the undergraduate level. She also has taught graduate courses in computational chemistry, which is her area of research expertise. In the course, students are taught the background and mechanics needed to carry out theoretical molecular structure determinations using various methods.
“Course projects are designed to show students how to do it; whereas the lectures are designed to show them why we do it and how it works,” she says. The best way to learn chemistry, she adds, is to conduct research in it.
“I hope the students understand that I want them to do well and that I have a strong commitment to helping them learn,” Deakyne says.
Deakyne is a recipient of the 2010 Mizzou Inclusive Excellence Award. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Rider College, a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a Ph.D from Princeton University.