Wenzel wins national education award

Thomas J. Wenzel, Charles A. Dana Professor of Chemistry at Bates College, has received the 1999 American Chemistry Society (ACS) Division of Analytical Chemistry J. Calvin Giddings Award for Excellence in Education.

Sponsored by the Dekker Foundation, the national award recognizes a scientist who has enhanced the professional development of analytical chemistry students, developed and published innovative experiments, designed and improved equipment or teaching labs and published influential textbooks or significant articles on teaching analytical chemistry. Wenzel is only the third recipient of the award from an undergraduate, liberal arts institution.

“Bates’ renowned excellence in undergraduate education is a direct reflection of Professor Wenzel’s dedication both on campus to his students and nationally as a tireless advocate of undergraduate research,” said Bates President Donald W. Harward. “The college is fortunate to share indirectly in his honor as an exceptional teacher and scholar.”

“I came to Bates because I wanted to develop innovative chemistry courses and involve undergraduates in meaningful research experiences,” Wenzel said. “Being recognized by my peers with this award is among the highest of honors I could receive.”

Wenzel’s numerous external research grants– in excess of $870,00o– integrate students as research colleagues in the field of chemical analysis. Wenzel’s summer research program supports students in full-time research positions in his lab, and many of his students publish their work in leading chemistry journals.

Wenzel has published articles and led workshops on the design and development of project-based laboratories and collaborative group learning in discovery-based approaches to chemistry. One of his course projects, completed by Bates senior Scott Pollard and 1998 Bates graduate Denby Johnson, on the analysis of caffeine in chocolate, is featured as the first chapter in the fifth-edition textbook Quantitative Chemical Analysis by Daniel C. Harris (W.H. Freeman and Company 1999), which is the most widely used textbook in undergraduate analytical chemistry. Many of his students attend graduate school or medical school.

As this year’s award recipient, Wenzel will receive a $4,000 prize as well as $1,000 in travel expenses to attend the ACS national conference in New Orleans in August, where he will address and participate in an awards symposium on education in analytical chemistry.

Wenzel, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University and a doctoral degree from the University of Colorado, was named a Dana Professor by the Charles A. Dana Foundation in 1997. He was named a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Scholar in 1990 and has been awarded 11 National Science Foundation grants since he began teaching at Bates 17 years ago.

In addition to his teaching, research and publications, Wenzel has served as the president of the Council on Undergraduate Research, a national organization of college and university professors and administrators. In 1997, the Carnegie Foundation honored Wenzel by naming him College Professor of the Year for the State of Maine. He is a resident of Auburn.

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