Conferences & Events

Cottrell Scholar Conference

17th-Annual Conference (2011)

Transforming Undergraduate Science Education in Ph.D. Institutions

This year’s Cottrell Scholar (CS) Conference, sponsored by Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), began with a celebration that launched a national organization for university scholars committed to excellence in science teaching at research universities.

The CS Collaborative is a cross-disciplinary group of outstanding faculty who received Cottrell Scholar awards beginning in 1994. The Collaborative’s overarching goal is to speak with an impactful voice to improve undergraduate science education at research universities across the country, said RCSA President and CEO Jim Gentile.

“RCSA believes that through teamwork, the CS Collaborative will develop new creative approaches to the chronic problem of undergraduate retention in science programs,” Gentile said, “as well as insightful new approaches to overcome the traditional bottlenecks to student learning.”

The Collaborative’s organizational meeting was held in conjunction with the annual Cottrell Scholar’s Conference July 6-8, at the Westin La Paloma resort in Tucson, Arizona. Conference chairs were Jairo Sinova (CS 2006), professor of physics, Texas A&M University, and Silvia Ronco, program officer, RCSA.  The primary focus of the two-and-a-half day conference, which attracted about 60 attendees, was the power of collaboration.

Keynote Lectures

Keynote lectures addressed important challenges in undergraduate education:

  • Judith Ramaley, Former Assistant Director of the NSF Education and Human Resource (EHR) Directorate and current President of Winona State University, talked about attraction and retention of undergraduates in science careers.
  • Mary Ann Rankin, Dean of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas, Austin, presented local programs that have been implemented at the national level.
  • Joan Ferrini-Mundy, current Assistant Director for NSF-EHR discussed federal funding opportunities and provided an overview of science policy issues.

Each lecture was followed by a dialog session facilitated by Elizabeth McCormack, Dean of Graduate Studies and Physics Professor at Bryn Mawr College.

Scholar Awards

As a symbol of the theme of collaboration, all attending Cottrell Scholars were presented with trophies made by the Tucson-based glass artist Paul Stout. The trophy ceremony set the tone for the intensive collaborative work during the conference.

New Scholars’ Presentations

The formal program began with 10-minute talks by new Cottrell Scholars who presented their educational activities and discussed their dream outcomes:

  1. Lane Baker, Chemistry, Indiana University, CS 2009, “Motivations – Dream Outcomes”
  2. Sarbajit Banerjee, Chemistry, University at Buffalo, CS 2010, “Looking Outwards from the Central Science: An Interdisciplinary “Research Skills” Laboratory Course”
  3. Duncan Brown, Physics, Syracuse University, CS 2010, “Improving the Undergraduate Science Experience for Non-Science Majors”
  4. Richard Brutchey, Chemistry, University of Southern California, CS 2010, “Solar Energy Research Internships: A Partnership with a Local Community College in Los Angeles County”
  5. Mark Caprio, Physics, University of Notre Dame, CS 2010, “Computational Problem Solving in the Undergraduate Physics Major”
  6. Linda Columbus, Chemistry, University of Virginia, CS 2010, “Goodbye Lectures; Hello Learning”
  7. Chris Douglas, Chemistry, University of Minnesota, CS 2010, “A Hybrid Guided Inquiry/Traditional Lecture Approach to Organic Chemistry Instruction in Large Classrooms”
  8. Josh Figueroa, Chemistry, University of California, San Diego, CS 2010, “UCCRO: Undergraduate Computational Chemistry Research Opportunity”
  9. Maura McLaughlin, Astronomy, West Virginia University, CS 2009, “Pulsar Searching and the Three “R”s of Undergraduate Physics Education”
  10. Jennifer Ross, Physics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, CS 2010, “Optics for Biophysics: An Interdisciplinary Advanced Laboratory Course in Optics”
  11. Snezana Stanimirovic, Astronomy, University of Wisconsin, Madison, CS 2009, “The Astronomical Observation Laboratory and More”

Breakout Sessions

The conference program included breakout sessions to facilitate dialog among participants and set the stage for team formation and collaborative work.

Topics of breakout sessions included:

  • Institutional Framework
  • Promotion and Tenure Policies
  • Undergraduate Research Models
  • Undergraduate Curriculum
  • Cottrell Scholar Collaborative – ideas to work together

Team Building and Grant Writing

The conference program also included a proposal writing activity. Participating Scholars were challenged to form teams and write proposals describing ideas that originated from discussions at the conference. Ten proposals were submitted to RCSA at the end of the conference. A panel composed of Cottrell Scholars and science education experts reviewed these and recommended two for funding.

Funded collaborative projects:

  1. “Effective Practices in Learning and Pedagogy from Cottrell Scholars: A High Impact Text for Educational Leadership in the 21st Century,” Penny Beuning (Northeastern University), Scott Snyder (Columbia University) and David Besson (University of Kansas).
  2. “CS Collaborative: Think and Do Tank,” Jim Martin (North Carolina State University) and Jenny Ross (University of Massachusetts, Amherst).




Celebration Video



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