Two Chemistry Faculty Members Selected for Distinguished Teaching Awards

Photo: Tehshik Yoon and students in lab

Tehshik Yoon (right), associate professor of chemistry, holds a discussion with graduate research assistant Travis Blum (left) and research associate Dani Schultz (center), both members of Yoon’s research group, in his lab in the Chemistry Building. Yoon is one of ten recipients of a 2013 Distinguished Teaching Award.
Photo: Bryce Richter

Ten faculty members have been chosen to receive this year’s Distinguished Teaching Awards. Interim Chancellor David Ward will present the awards at a ceremony on March 19 at the Pyle Center. A reception hosted by the Wisconsin Alumni Association will follow; to attend, register here.

The awards, chosen by a committee, honor “faculty members whose teaching is of such quality that it merits recognition and award.” Among the 10 recipients are two from the Department of Chemistry:

Edwin Sibert, professor of chemistry, Chancellor’s Award

Professor Edwin SibertWhile Edwin Sibert came to UW-Madison to pursue research, he discovered a love of teaching.

“I quickly realized how much I enjoyed working with both graduate and undergraduate students and how rewarding it was to assist students to make new connections and to see the world in a new light,” Sibert says.

Sibert has been a faculty member in the chemistry department since 1986, becoming a professor in 1997. For much of his career, he has dedicated himself to improving the education of all undergraduates who enroll in general chemistry.

In 2000, he became chair of the undergraduate curriculum committee. During the next two years, he supervised efforts to recreate the chemistry major and to institute widespread changes in the introductory chemistry courses. The result created new pathways for undergraduates to become chemistry majors and offered students with different interests choices and clear ideas about how to proceed. An honors program in the major also was created, greatly increasing the number of undergraduates doing research in their early years.

Sibert was named chair of the general chemistry division in 2007, a position he held until 2011.

“No one during the last decade has had a greater influence than Ned on undergraduates enrolling in general chemistry,” write award nominators James Weisshaar, professor and chair of chemistry, and Gilbert Nathanson, professor of chemistry and chair of the general chemistry division.

Tehshik Yoon, associate professor of chemistry, William Kiekhofer Award

Professor Tehshik YoonTehshik Yoon has made extraordinary contributions to curricular development and pedagogical innovation at both the graduate and undergraduate levels in the chemistry department since joining it seven years ago.

“I couldn't have anticipated that the pleasure I get from teaching would be so much like the satisfaction I get in the laboratory,” Yoon says. “I'm always experimenting to figure out how to deliver a concept better, to better motivate my students and to make the case to them that science is fantastically beautiful.”

He regularly earns some of the strongest teaching evaluations in the department; multiple students have described him as the best teacher they’ve ever had.

Yoon has introduced valuable innovations in the undergraduate curriculum, focusing largely on novel uses of technology. He has pioneered the use of social media in the classroom, and he experiments with strategies to harness the community-building and real-time feedback capabilities of social-media platforms, such as blogs and Facebook, to engage students and construct virtual “learning communities” in his classes.

He also has made a unique contribution to the graduate curriculum in the department.

“Tehshik’s contributions to teaching are even more remarkable in light of his success as a scholar,” says James Weisshaar, professor and chair of chemistry. “The same creative, interdisciplinary spirit that Tehshik brings to his teaching innovations is also reflected in his success as a researcher.”

Story by Käri Knutson, University Communications