2020 Hanson-Dow Award for Excellence in Teaching

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Professors Jorge Torres and Jennifer Casey have been named the recipients of the 2020 Hanson-Dow Award for Excellence in Teaching.  

The Hanson-Dow Award for Excellence in Teaching was established in 1986 as a means to celebrate outstanding teaching within the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. The award recognizes our ladder and non-ladder faculty members for their efforts in classrooms and laboratories, in overseeing undergraduate student research, and preparing exceptional teaching materials.  

Torres and Casey will be formally recognized during the 2020 Departmental Awards Ceremony at a date to be announced in the future.

TorresPicture 0Dr. Jorge Torres, a Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, has contributed significantly to the increased participation and effective mentorship of under-represented minorities in the sciences, through his teaching, outreach and mentoring. He has served as a mentor for several UCLA diversity outreach programs including the Amgen Scholars Program, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Initiative, and the Minority Access to Research Careers program. In 2019, Torres received the UCLA Academic Senate’s Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award and the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Prize for Excellence in Inclusivity. In 2018, he received the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Ruth Kirschstein Diversity in Science Award. He was recently honored by the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) in recognition of his lifelong commitment to mentoring students.

Torres received a bachelor’s degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology from UC Santa Barbara in 1998 and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton University in 2004. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Genentech Inc. before joining the UCLA faculty in 2009. Torres is the current director of the department’s National Institutes of Health T32 graduate student training grant in Cellular and Molecular Biology.

Torres’ group studies proteins that direct the assembly and function of the mitotic spindle and uses multidisciplinary approaches to develop new anti-cancer drugs.

Casey%2CJennifer Small 0Dr. Jennifer Casey, an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, created and taught an enhanced general chemistry pilot course (Chem 14AE) this Spring quarter for Life Science majors, an endeavor supported by a UC Provost Grant. The purpose of this course is to help under-prepared students succeed in their general chemistry classes without increasing their time to degree.

Despite the course being taught remotely, Casey received much praise from her students for the class. In evaluations completed by the students, Casey is uniformly praised for her dedication, organization, support for students, passion, and enthusiasm. Casey and her Teaching Assistants were able to build a sense of community online, so much so that her Chem 14AE pilot class self-organized to raise $830 to donate to the Black Lives Matter organization and to the Breonna Taylor’s GoFundMe page.

Casey received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in mathematics from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) in 2007 and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from UCLA in 2014, under the direction of Professor Benjamin Schwartz.  During her graduate studies, Casey served as a teaching assistant for many quarters and received the department’s Hanson-Dow Excellence in Teaching Award in 2009. She also participated in a year-long NSF-funded project in which she designed and implemented new inquiry-based laboratory experiments for teachers interested in incorporating hands-on chemistry in their high school classrooms.  

After receiving her Ph.D., Casey accepted a visiting-assistant professor position at Sonoma State University in Northern California where she helped create a Foundational-Level General Science Waiver program in an effort to increase the number of qualified instructors in California secondary schools. She also lectured briefly at Loyola Marymount University and participated in their Center for Teaching Excellence Credential Program.

Casey was offered a lecturer position at UCLA in 2016. While at UCLA, Casey has been invested in ‘scientific teaching’, where she actively tries to measure whether course objectives are successfully met. In 2019, Casey was awarded the prestigious UCLA Academic Senate’s Committee on Teaching 2019 Distinguished Teaching Award for Non-Senate Faculty. 

Click here to view a new CEILS video in which Casey describes how, in her Spring 2020 Chem14AE course, she fostered group work and built an engaging and effective community through remote teaching. She talks about the challenges she encountered along with great tips for overcoming these obstacles. 

About the Hanson-Dow Award for Excellence in Teaching
Each year this award is presented to one or two faculty members (ladder and non-ladder) of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry for outstanding teaching. The award was established in 1984, funded by a generous donation from alumnus William J. (Bill) Hanson (A.B. ’41, M.S. ’43 Jacobs) with a matching donation from the Dow Chemical Company. Hanson worked for Dow Chemical for many years and was responsible for establishing this award, which recognizes the impact our faculty have on UCLA chemistry and biochemistry students.

Previous Hanson-Dow Award for Excellence in Teaching Awardees

2019 Alexander M. Spokoyny & Heather L. Tienson-Tseng
2018 Zhao Li
2016 Anastassia N. Alexandrova & Anne Hong-Hermesdorf
2015 Sharon R. Neufeldt
2014 Joseph A. Loo
2013 Patrick G. Harran 
2012 Sarah H. Tolbert
2011 Neil K. Garg
2010 Craig A. Merlic
2009 Catherine F. Clarke 
2008 Steven J. Kim
2007 Heather D. Maynard 
2006 Laurence Lavelle 
2005 Stuart J. Cantrill & Yung-Ya Lin
2004 Todd O. Yeates
2003 Albert J. Courey 
2002 Benjamin J. Schwartz 
2001 Marjorie A. Bates
2000 Steven A. Hardinger
1999 Harold G. Martinson
1998 Emily A. Carter
1996 Steven G. Clarke
1995 Emil Reisler
1994 Charles A. West & Jeffrey I. Zink
1993 Mario E. Bauer
1992 Michael E.Jung
1991 Michael E.Jung
1990 Richard B. Kaner
1989 Betty A. Luceigh
1988 David Farrelly
1987 Kyle D. Bayes
1986 William M. Gelbart

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