Chemistry & Biochemistry breaks record with trifecta of UCLA teaching awards

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For the first time at UCLA, three members of one department receive Academic Senate Teaching awards. 

In 2019, teaching awards were garnered by Professor Anastassia Alexandrova, instructor Dr. Jennifer Casey, and graduate student K.J. Winchell, all members of the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.

Among the highest honors given by the Academic Senate, the Distinguished Teaching Awards recognize academically and professionally accomplished individuals who bring respect and admiration to the scholarship of teaching.  

Trifecta 2019

2019 Academic Senate Teaching Award Recipients Dr. Jennifer Casey, K.J. Winchell and Professor Anastassia Alexandrova.

In 1985, the Academic Senate began giving teaching awards in three categories: tenure-track faculty, lecturers and teaching assistants. (Prior to 1985, awards were given solely to tenure-track faculty.)  Since then, there have been only three instances when two people in a department received an award. In 2005, two faculty in Spanish and Portuguese received awards, followed by two faculty in 2006 in Classics. In 2018, Chemistry & Biochemistry received two distinguished teaching awards for Dr. Zhao Li and graduate student Devon Widmer. 

2019 marks the first time that any department at UCLA has had three members receive distinguished teaching awards, and is a testament to the commitment that the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry has to education coupled with research.

More about the three award recipients:

Physical theoretical chemist Professor Anastassia Alexandrova received the 2018-2019 Distinguished Teaching Award for Senate Faculty.  Fellow faculty member Professor William Gelbart described Alexandrova as “an exceptionally lively and engaging personality who connects easily with students and makes them feel – at the same time – both comfortable and inspired”.  She is a great teacher, he added, “because she embodies a rare combination of intellectual brilliance and passion with a palpable sense of caring and concern for people”. Alexandrova discussed her passion for teaching in a short video recorded as part of the UCLA Academic Senate’s recognition. Read more about Alexandrova’s award here.

Computational and physical chemistry lecturer Dr. Jennifer Casey received a 2019 Distinguished Teaching Award for Non-Senate Faculty.  “Jennifer stands shoulder to shoulder with other exemplary UCLA teachers and is truly deserving of this prestigious award,” said Professor Catherine Clarke, who was chair of the Chemistry & Biochemistry department from July 2016-June 2019. “In the classroom she practices active-learning techniques that engage all students in the learning process, she fosters confidence even in the most timid of students by encouraging one-on-one meetings with her, and she serves as a de facto role model for young women”. Casey explained her approach to teaching in a short video recorded as part of the UCLA Academic Senate’s recognition. Read more about Casey’s award here

Teaching assistant and graduate student Katharine “K.J.” Winchell (Sarah Tolbert group) received the 2019 Distinguished Teaching Award for Teaching Assistants.  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. Winchell discussed the importance of making chemistry accessible in a short video recorded as part the UCLA Academic Senate’s recognition. Read more about Winchell’s award here

The 2019 Distinguished Teaching Awards were announced earlier this year and the recipients were recognized at the 2019 Andrea L. Rich Night to Honor Teaching at the Chancellor’s residence on Oct. 15, 2019.  

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,