New Endowed Professorships in General Chemistry

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New Endowed Professors in General Chemistry, Albert Courey & Yung-Ya Lin, will work together to enhance the learning experience for life science undergrads. 

Courey and Lin will bring together a collaborative team of instructors, including several of the department’s teacher-scholars and lecturers, and pedagogy experts from the UCLA Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS) to transform the first two chemistry courses taken by nearly all life science majors: Chem14A, which focuses on atomic and molecular structure, and Chem14B, which focuses on thermodynamics and kinetics. The end result will be chemistry classes that are more effective, engaging, and relevant for UCLA life science majors.

While just under 70% of all incoming UCLA life science students complete a science major, less than 40% of those from under-represented minority groups do so. To narrow this achievement gap, there is a need to modernize our first-year science courses by increasing evidence based teaching practices, including:

Active learning – in which students actively construct their own knowledge,

Collaborative learning – in which students support and teach one another,

Interdisciplinary learning – in which increased emphasis on the connections between disciplines helps students to understand that what they are learning is relevant to their lives.

UCLA has already made major strides toward these goals. The Life Sciences Core, the Math Department, and the Physics & Astronomy Department are all transforming their first-year curricula by increasing evidenced based teaching practices, while, in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, efforts from dedicated instructors have increased the use of active, collaborative, and interdisciplinary learning approaches in first year chemistry courses. The Endowed Professorships in General Chemistry program seeks to coordinate and expand these efforts and to assess their effectiveness.

About Professor Albert Courey

Courey Al 1“The best teaching rekindles a student’s love of learning and inspires passionate enthusiasm for the subject” said Courey, Associate Dean of Physical Sciences for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. “I want my students to see chemistry and biochemistry as living disciplines, not static bodies of knowledge, so I acquaint them with diverse scientists and cutting edge experimental approaches.”

A biochemist and an avid pianist, Courey received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from Oberlin College in 1979. He received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Harvard University in 1986 and he carried out postdoctoral research in biochemistry at U.C. Berkeley from 1986-1989. Courey joined the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty in 1990. Every spring since 1996, Courey has instructed a course at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in Protein Purification and Characterization. He is the author of a textbook entitled Mechanisms in Transcriptional Regulation. 

Courey has been recognized for his innovative teaching with the Hanson-Dow Teaching Award (2003) and the Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award (2010). He employs many approaches to make his classes more interactive and collaborative. 

While chair of the Academic Senate Committee on Teaching (2015 to 2017), Courey spearheaded several initiatives, including efforts to reform the evaluation of teaching. As Associate Dean of Physical Sciences for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Courey conceived and brought to fruition successful events aimed at making undergraduate education more inclusive, including an event last fall for physical science majors entitled “How to Thrive in the Sciences at UCLA and Beyond”. This event was inspired by research showing that exposure of students to concepts such as growth mindset and social belonging significantly improves performance. Within the department, he has been involved in multiple efforts to revise the department’s curriculum including the design of an innovative core biochemistry series (the 269 series) for first-year biochemistry graduate students.

“The Professorship in General Chemistry will be a tremendous challenge, but also tremendously rewarding” said Courey. “By creating a general chemistry learning community dedicated to scientific teaching, it will transform the education of thousands of students for the better.”

To learn about Courey’s research, visit his group’s website.

About Professor Yung-Ya Lin

Professor Yung-Ya LinA favorite quote of Lin’s is “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” by Benjamin Franklin, originally from Chinese Confucian philosopher, Xunzi (312-230 BC). “Use methods of science to teach science,” said Lin, Vice Chair for Undergraduate Education. “I will work closely with Al and other general chemistry instructors to develop programmatic and methodological innovations in teaching, curriculum design, instructional development, pedagogical practices, and grading strategies to get students actively involved in deep learning and to promote their academic success in a collaborative and inclusive learning environment.”  

Deeply inspired by his mentors during his Ph.D. studies at Berkeley (1993-1998), postdoctoral research at Princeton (1998-2001), and professorship at UCLA (2002–), “Teaching is a work of heart and vision,” said Lin. “I consider myself very fortunate to have great mentors. I want to be like them and I want my students to feel the same inspiration and support, too.”

“As Friedrich Nietzsche said ‘He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how’. I can never forget the spark I saw in my students’ eyes when I used examples from my group’s research in magnetic resonance-based physical oncology, molecular imaging, and nano theranostics to demonstrate how general chemistry principles can be transformed into life-saving opportunities,” said Lin. “Therefore, our top priority is to make Chem 14 more effective, engaging, and relevant for Life Science and Biochemistry majors who take these courses.”

For teaching-related honors, Lin has been named “Professors of the Year” (2015, five faculty were chosen each year by UCLA’s official yearbook, BruinLife) and has received UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award: Academic Senate (2009), Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award (2005), and Hanson-Dow Distinguished Teaching Award (2005). “Just like research, I cherish teaching as a very important mechanism to contribute to our society, and I wish to prove worthy” said Lin.

To learn about Lin’s research, visit his group’s website.

About the Chem 14 series

The Chem 14 series was designed for life science majors. The series provides an accelerated pace through general chemistry and satisfies all pre-health requirements. It covers general and organic chemistry, but in fewer (NOT easier) courses than the series for physical science students. The classes show how chemistry relates to biology and how it can be applied to learn about the life sciences. About 85% of life science majors complete this series.  

The series includes six courses – two are general chemistry courses taught in the classroom (14A & 14B), two are organic chemistry courses taught in the classroom (14C & 14D), and two are lab courses (14BL, 14CL).