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Distinguished Professor for Teaching Awards

Colin Burns

Colin Burns, Ph.D.
Department of Chemistry
Thomas Harriot College of Arts
   & Sciences

"Teaching science is similar to teaching a language--the alphabet must be mastered. Although there is a certain amount of tedium involved in  committing such information to memory, once learned, the "scientific language" can unlock the doors to current scientific research. I strive to get students away from thinking of the science class being made up of a seemingly endless list of questions with known "right" or "wrong" answers and instead introduce them to the process of rigorous thinking. I structure classes such that cutting-edge information from the primary literature can be presented in class and on examinations, especially at the freshman and sophomore level. An added benefit from this approach is that sometimes the answer to the current problem is not known. It is my hope that students then realize there are important problems still to be solved and what they are learning in class may be an essential tool in solving it. Overall, this keeps teaching in line with the spirit of scientific inquiry and away from the generation of trivial derivations of textbook examples. Further, this approach stresses the need to learn concepts instead of memorizing previous examples."
Courses taught:

CHEM 6103 Chemistry Seminar
CHEM 5760 Organic Structure Elucidation
CHEM 2760 Organic Chemistry II
CHEM 2763 Organic Chemistry Laboratory II
CHEM 2750 Organic Chemistry I
CHEM 2753 Organic Chemistry Laboratory I