Murphy Award winner: Jean Chmielewski

May 5, 2010

Jean Chmielewski, the Alice Watson Kramer Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, talks with a student in her office. Chmielewski gets high marks from students for using familiar things like bacon and tomato juice to make organic chemistry more digestible. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

Download image

Five exceptional teachers were honored with 2010 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Awards in Memory of Charles B. Murphy at the Celebration of Teaching Excellence on April 27 in Purdue Memorial Union. This week, Purdue Today will feature a profile on each of the recipients. Today, we focus on Jean Chmielewski, the Alice Watson Kramer Distinguished Professor of Chemistry.

Hoping to promote understanding and limit fear of organic chemistry for the non-chemistry majors she teaches, Chmielewski uses visuals, real-life examples, and films to relate the material to students in an accessible way.

"I also run demonstrations of organic chemistry on common items, like bacon and tomato juice, so students can really see a reaction going," she says.

Chmielewski listens to very loud music on her drive to campus to maintain high energy levels during lectures over the often "large amounts of dry information." She says, "[M]y class has been at 8:30 a.m. for a long time. If I'm not awake, there's no way that the students will be!"

In the last five of her 20 years at Purdue, Chmielewski has received an overall instructor rating of 4.7 or higher on a five-point scale. These ratings along with her selection as a 2010 Murphy Award winner were based on her outstanding development and excellent instruction of an introductory two-semester organic chemistry class.

Chmielewski has also received the departmental Arthur E. Kelly Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2000 and 2006 and the Outstanding Teacher in the College of Science three years in a row.

Students say: "[She] teaches the course with passion, knowledge, and straightforwardness that I have almost never seen." … "She is always prepared and always willing to cover material until the class seems comfortable with the topic." … "This woman is amazing! Purdue should encourage all other professors to sit in on her classes and learn from her exemplary teaching style." … "Can we clone Dr. Chmielewski? Please?"

Chmielewski says, "The gratification of knowing that I helped students learn new and difficult organic chemistry concepts and have left them with a positive attitude about chemistry is highly rewarding."