“Educating 21st Century Scientists,” the topic of the 18th-annual gathering of the national Cottrell Scholar Collaborative, recently drew 60 scholar-educators to the Arizona desert to share their experiences, challenges and initiatives to reform undergraduate science teaching in America’s research universities.
RCSA Program Director Silvia Ronco and Cottrell Scholar Rigoberto Hernandez, Chemistry Department at the Georgia Institute of Technology, served as chairs of the conference.
The Cottrell Scholar Collaborative is an inclusive, cross-disciplinary group of more than 250 outstanding teacher/scholars who have received Cottrell Scholar awards since the start of the RCSA-funded program in 1994.
This year’s conference participants took part in extensive networking and breakout sessions. Many Scholars were involved in preparing collaborative proposals – team proposals with ideas that emerged at the conference. RCSA will soon announce the award of four $25,000 grants to winning teams whose proposals are judged to have the potential for significant impact at the department or institutional level or that connect with national education initiatives.
Several wide-ranging dialog sessions during the conference were led by Elizabeth McCormack, professor of physics at Bryn Mawr College. The discussion methodology closely follows that pioneered several years ago in RCSA’s Scialog® Conference. It seeks to foster the open, non-judgmental exchange of views and hypotheses with emphasis on creativity and innovation rather than the argumentation and debate often found at other scientific conferences.
Among the numerous conference discussions, one highlighted Cottrell Scholar Goeffrey Hutchison’s development of Avogadro, interactive software to train research students in the fundamentals of science computation. Avogadro is freely available shareware that allows students to predict how atoms and molecules behave in newly created materials.
Conference Advisory Committee
The conference planning committee was chaired by Hernandez and co-chaired by Mats Selen, Physics Department, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Committee members included Linda Columbus, Chemistry Department, University of Virginia; Andrew Feig, Chemistry Department, Wayne State University; and Adam Leibovich, Physics Department, University of Pittsburgh.
Michael Schatz, a professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, discussed challenges and opportunities in science education. View Presentation (PDF, 780KB)
Tobin Smith, American Association of Universities (AAU) vice president for policy, discussed the AAU initiative on reforming undergraduate STEM education.
Celeste Rohlfing, deputy assistant director for the Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF, presented STEM workforce issues from the NSF perspective. View Presentation (PDF, 1MB)
Luis Echegoyen, the Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry at the University of Texas, El Paso, discussed carbon materials and the serendipity of discovery.
The formal program included 10-minute talks by Cottrell Scholars who presented their educational activities and discussed their dream outcomes:
The formal program also included presentations by collaborative teams funded after last year’s Cottrell Scholars Conference:
“Cottrell Scholar Collaborative Think and Do Tank,” Principal Investigators: Jim Martin (North Carolina State University) and Jennifer Ross (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
“Effective Practices in Learning and Pedagogy from Cottrell Scholars,” David Besson (University of Kansas), Penny Beuning (Northeastern University) and Scott Snyder (Columbia University)
The following received Cottrell Scholar Awards during the conference’s opening night ceremonies:
Alberto Bolatto, Erin Carlson, John Cerne, William Dichtel, Kingshuk Ghosh, Michael Gladders, Boyd Goodson, Martin Gruebele, Seth Herzon, Eric Hudson, Geoffrey Hutchison, Matt McIntosh, Daisuke Nagai, Ed Nowak, Sarah Reisman, Michael Schatz, Kyle Shen, Sara Skrabalak, Dennis Smith, JD Smith, David Spivak, Yadong Yin.
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