published December 31, 1969

SENCER E-Newsletter, September 2003, Volume 2, Issue 3

SENCER Innovations Featured at ACS Meeting - By: Trace Jordan

The 226th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society was held in New York City, September 7-11, 2003. Trace Jordan (New York University) and Jennifer Sorensen (Seattle University) organized a day and a half symposium entitled "Science and Society: Linking Chemistry with Service Learning and Public Policy Issues," which attracted nearly 30 participants and included lively exchanges about revitalizing chemistry education. Discussion of SENCER permeated the session since several talks were given by SENCER Summer Institute alumni.

The first session of the symposium - "Chemistry and Policy" - was opened by Trace Jordan, who provided an overview of the SENCER educational initiative. Cathy Middlecamp (University of Wisconsin - Madison) described her course that deals with the effects on Southwest uranium mining on the local Navajo population. The next presentation, by Kristen Kulinowski (Rice University), provided a valuable introduction to nanotechnology and explored reasons why the public perception of new technologies often proceed from "wow" to "yuck." The symposium's second session focused on service learning, with presentations showing how chemistry education can be linked to community service and how this approach expands student learning. The third and final session examined how chemistry can be taught through complex environmental issues. Amy Shachter (Santa Clara University) described her SENCER model course on "Chemistry and the Environment," which includes a campus environmental project. One particularly memorable example was how a student converted his truck to run on biodiesel fuel. Ellen Goldey (Wofford College) talked about how her students become "Immersed in Water" during a first-year learning community that links a biology course with a writing course. Another interesting example of a learning community was provided by Maria Gelabert and Nicholas Richardson (Wagner College), who discussed the Wagner Plan for the Liberal Arts. In this curriculum, students enroll in a first year learning community consisting of three linked courses plus and experiential component. Christopher Smart (Vassar College), who also chaired the third session, spoke on an interdisciplinary collaboration around the theme of lead toxicity, where students from an analytical chemistry course interact with students from an urban policy course to devise public policy solutions to lead exposure. As the final SENCER speaker, Timothy Elgren (Hamilton College) explained how his non-majors course, "Miracles, Disasters, and Everyday Chemistry," uses contemporary issues as a framework for exploring chemical principles. In concluding this summary, I would like to sincerely thank all of the SENCER Summer Institute alumni who enthusiastically contributed to this stimulating series of discussions.

Trace can be reached at