TWU faculty recognized for extraordinary contributions to citizen science
Sept. 11, 2018 – DENTON – A team of Texas Woman’s University Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty recently received the William E. Bennett Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Citizen Science. The award, presented by the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement, recognizes professor and chair Richard Sheardy, Ph.D., assistant professor Nasrin Mirsaleh-Kohan, Ph.D., and senior lecturer Cynthia Maguire, M.S., for their success in promoting civic engagement and social responsibility through their courses and degree programs.
“This award really belongs to the faculty, staff and students of the TWU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry,” Sheardy said. “It is through their support of our civic engagement initiatives that we have been able to succeed in bringing socially responsible science to TWU.”
Cathy Middlecamp, Ph.D., professor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, nominated the TWU team for its outstanding contributions to science, physics and chemistry programming. The team had a role in the development and execution of an on-campus pollinator garden as well as the implementation of hands-on student activities in the classroom. Among those activities were the collection and analysis of local rainwater, the conversion of human energy on treadmills into potential electricity, and the transformation of aluminum cans into Play-Doh.
During her visits to TWU, Middlecamp observed “how campus faculty members and those from the local community participated in campus-wide and community-wide events, drawing an active group of participants” to forums and presentations such as Maguire’s chemistry wizard shows, which introduce basic scientific concepts to children through chemistry experiments and illusions.
The TWU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry houses the Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER) Center for Innovation Southwest. The center, which is co-directed by Bennett awardees Mirsaleh-Kohan and Maguire, offers workshops on civic engagement in the classroom and hosts regional SENCER meetings and symposiums.
According to senior SENCER research fellow Stephen Carroll, faculty team members “have been exceptional role models not just for individual instructors, but also for whole campuses, for curriculum developers and for program leaders. They have built an award-winning, interdisciplinary and integrated curriculum that attracts students, draws in the community and brings fresh energy to their college and their town.”
“The faculty and staff at TWU have been consistent leaders, not only local leaders in science and civic engagement, but also national leaders. They are champions of grass-roots local level work,” said Reid Bishop, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics at Belhaven University, Mississippi.
The department was previously recognized for its civic-centered courses by the American Association of Colleges and Universities’ Fall 2017 issue of Peer Review, “Civic Major by Design,” and their efforts are ongoing.
Associate professor Manal Rawashdeh-Omary, Ph.D., recently presented a “Green Chemistry” seminar at the world's first international, policy-focused conference on bamboo and rattan research and sustainable development in Beijing, China. This fall, the department is launching a new environmental chemistry track within the undergraduate chemistry major, which will offer advanced labs and courses in ecology, sustainability and green chemistry.
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