2019 Distinguished Teaching Award

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Graduate student Katharine “KJ” Winchell (Sarah Tolbert group) has been selected for the 2019 Distinguished Teaching Award for Teaching Assistants.

Winchell is one of five awardees selected from a large field of extraordinary nominees. She will be recognized at the annual “Andrea L. Rich Night to Honor Teaching” dinner in the Fall 2019 quarter. Awardees receive a monetary award and those who advance to candidacy in the Fall Quarter receive a $20,000 Dissertation Year Fellowship Award from the UCLA Graduate Division.

A native of Los Angeles, Winchell moved to New Jersey in 2006. After graduating from high school, she attended Amherst College where she conducted undergraduate research in polymer chemistry and worked for Reader to Reader Inc., a non-profit organization which promotes literacy in underserved communities. Winchell graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2015.  

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During a teaching discussion for Physical Chemistry: Chemical Thermodynamics (Chem 110A), Winchell explains strategies for deriving expressions and calculating the value of state functions in reversible and irreversible processes.


Winchell mentors undergraduate students as a facilitator for the department’s learning assistant program.

In the summer of 2015, Winchell joined Professor Sarah Tolbert’s group as a chemistry graduate student to study the structure-function relationship of semiconducting polymers for organic electronic applications. In 2018, as a UCLA Collegium of University Teaching Fellow (CUTF), Winchell developed and taught a course titled “Clean Energy from the Ground-Up”, which teaches students about the different forms of available clean and renewable energy.  Winchell is a facilitator for the chemistry & biochemistry department’s learning assistant program, and she is a volunteer with the California NanoSystems Institute’s nanoscience outreach program helping to develop workshops for public school teachers to help them teach cutting edge science labs in their classrooms.

After she obtains her Ph.D. in chemistry, Winchell plans to continue teaching at a primarily undergraduate institution, improving chemistry curricula and increasing outreach opportunities for underserved communities.

The goal of the UCLA Academic Senate Teaching Award is to increase awareness of UCLA’s leadership in teaching and public service by honoring individuals who bring respect and admiration to the scholarship of teaching. By recognizing teachers for their achievements, the award gives parents, donors and others insight to what makes UCLA “a beacon of excellence in higher education.” These awards are an effective way to boost morale on campus and provide role models for faculty and students.

Winchell joins several other former UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate students who have received the honor. Previous winners include:

2018 – Devon Widmer
2017 – Matthew Fontana – after graduating in the summer of 2018, Matt will start a position as Chemistry Instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College in his hometown”.   
2015 – Zhao Li – now the Libby Teacher Scholar at the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry conducting research with Prof. Yung-Ya Lin.
2014 – Rees Garmann – now a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard conducting research with Vinothan Manoharan.
2007 – Sadaf Sehati – now a chemistry professor at Pierce College
2004 – Jerome-Ieronymos Zoidais – now a researcher in the Biotechnology Division of the Biomedical Research Foundation, Academy of Athens (BRFAA).
2000 – Dean Tantillo – now a chemistry professor at UC Davis.
1999 – David Klein – now an author and senior chemistry lecturer at Johns Hopkins University.
1995 – Nate Brandstater – now president of Kettering College.
1978 – Rosemarie Szostak – now a senior analyst at Nerac.
1976 – Hsi-Chao Chow 
1975 – Wayne Evans

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.