Skip to main content

Exceptional Early Career Teaching Award honors undergraduate faculty


Betsy Parkinson recognized for excellence in and out of the classroom

Betsy Parkinson, winner of the 2023-24 Exceptional Early Career Teaching Award, embodies the ideal that the “teaching responsibility to students does not stop at the classroom door.” She persistently demonstrates her “readiness to aid and motivate students in a counseling and advisory capacity” through distinctive strategies and simple acts of kindness.

Purdue University began offering the early career award to honor outstanding undergraduate faculty members on the West Lafayette campus with the rank of assistant professor. Of the hundreds of Boilermakers eligible, Parkinson has distinguished herself not only as a skilled educator, but also as a remarkable human being.

Parkinson, assistant professor of chemistry and medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, fell in love with both science and teaching at an early age. Her experiences growing up on a farm in Mississippi inspired, in part, her current research on soil-dwelling bacteria and medicines based on natural products (molecules made by living organisms). Her passion for sharing knowledge is something that has always been a part of her, too.

“I am so appreciative of my students. There are many fantastic professors on Purdue’s campus, and it’s just a huge honor to receive this award.”

  • Assistant Professor Betsy Parkinson

“I’ve loved teaching for a long time,” she says. “Even in middle school, I was the annoying kid who was trying to tutor her friends. I was like, ‘I can tutor you. I can tutor you.’ Being honored with the Early Career award for doing something that I love is so special to me. I really appreciate it.”

Parkinson’s path to Purdue started with her undergraduate education at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where she majored in chemistry and participated in undergraduate research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“I was in a molecular pharmacology lab at St. Jude,” she explains. “So early on, I was at the interface between biology and chemistry.”

Parkinson’s research interests grew, and in graduate school she explored nature-made medicines at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Parkinson started at Purdue in 2018 and since then has taught organic chemistry to more than 2,000 undergraduates. She takes the pulse of her students on day one of classes.

“I give students a survey about their feelings toward organic chemistry,” she explains. “Right off the bat I acknowledge they might be scared or nervous. But I reassure them that, although we cover a lot of content, if they study 30 minutes a day, they will be fine. They may not get an A, but they will be totally fine.”

Parkinson has implemented other strategies too, like “Friday Fun Lectures,” which help students connect organic chemistry concepts to their other academic interests, and “Chill With a Chemist” meetings with students outside of class. Supporting struggling students with extra help sessions and promoting on-campus mental health resources are just a few of the ways Parkinson is making a difference in the lives of her students.

“I am so appreciative of my students,” Parkinson says. “There are many fantastic professors on Purdue’s campus, and it’s just a huge honor to receive this award.”


About the College of Science

Purdue University’s College of Science is committed to the persistent pursuit of the mathematical and scientific knowledge that forms the very foundation of innovation. More than 350 tenure-track faculty conduct world-changing research and deliver a transformative education to more than 6,000 undergraduates and 1,750 graduate students. See how we develop practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges with degree programs in the life sciences, physical sciences, computational sciences, mathematics, and data science at

Writer: Julie Beckwith

Purdue University College of Science, 150 N. University St, West Lafayette, IN 47907 • Phone: (765) 494-1729, Fax: (765) 494-1736

Student Advising Office: (765) 494-1771, Fax: (765) 496-3015 • Science IT, (765) 494-4488

© 2024 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | DOE Degree Scorecards

Trouble with this page? Accessibility issues? Please contact the College of Science.