Women in STEM Fields Honored at Faculty Convocation

Professors Jennifer Fox, Amy Liu, and Sarah Stoll pose with the Dean's Award medals against a red backdrop.
Professors Jennifer Fox of the Department of Biology, Amy Liu of the Department of Physics, and Sarah Stoll of the Department of Chemisty were awarded the Dean's Awards for Excellence in Teaching at the 2018 Faculty Convocation (Photo: Patrick Curran/Georgetown College)

January 26, 2018 — Georgetown College Dean Christopher Celenza presented the Dean’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching to three accomplished professors in the natural sciences at the 2018 Faculty Convocation on Tuesday.

Held in the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Gonda Theater, the ceremony honored three women teaching in scientific fields on the Hilltop: Jennifer Fox, Teaching Professor in the Department of Biology; Amy Liu, Professor in the Department of Physics; and Sarah Stoll, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry.

TAKING RISKS

Professor Jennifer Fox specializes in evolutionary history and ecology. She teaches multiple sections of Foundations of Biology II each year, along with seminar courses on ecology and the biology of sex.

Colleagues and students note Fox’s ability to make even massive lectures feel engaging, dynamic, and accessible to non-majors, through discussion groups, service projects and an increased focus on writing in the curriculum.

“Professor Fox likes to say ‘I’m a good teacher who takes risks in her teaching,” said Mark Rose, Chair of the Department of Biology. “We disagree. We think she is a great teacher.”

RESEARCH-DRIVEN TEACHING

Professor Amy Liu researches properties of crystals, interfaces, and clusters, including superconductivity, charge density waves, anharmonicity, and thermal properties.

When she’s not conducting quantum physics research, Liu works tirelessly to ensure her students grasp the complex topics she teaches. She has embraced innovative, research-driven approaches to teaching, which have set an example for the rest of her department.

“Through her sustained excellence in working directly with students, her pioneering efforts to introduce proven curricular innovation into our coursework, and her inspirational leadership of the faculty, Prof. Liu has had a profound impact on her students and her colleagues,” Department of Physics Chair Jeffrey Urbach said in Liu’s award citation.

PRIORITIZING STUDENT RESEARCH

Professor Sarah Stoll is an inorganic chemist who primarily studies magnetic nanoparticles, which have applications in data storage and biological systems. She teaches multiple sections of general, inorganic and environmental chemistry.

In teaching, Stoll takes an innovative interdisciplinary approach to her environmental chemistry course, focusing on how an understanding of chemistry can help us better understand issues in law, economics, history, health, and politics. In her research, she has prioritized student collaboration: 19 of her 24 undergraduate research assistants have become co-authors on peer-reviewed papers.

“I originally came into college thinking I would work in public health,” said one student in a review of Stoll’s environmental chemistry course. “After your class, I realized how much more passionate I was about climate change and natural resource security. I don’t think I would have found this passion if I had not taken your course.”

DIVERSITY IN STEM

Before attendees adjourned to the lobby for a reception, Celenza noted the importance of empowering women and members of underrepresented groups in sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“It really struck me that all three winners tonight were women in STEM fields,” Celenza said.

Outlining the College’s efforts to encourage diversity within the sciences, Celenza cited the work of Elena Silva, Vice Dean for Graduate Affairs, Diversity, and Inclusion, as well as the Regents Science Scholars Program, which provides mentoring and support for first-generation college students in STEM fields. Still, he maintained that more work is needed.

“We at Georgetown should be proud of how far we’ve come on this issue, but also reminded of how far we still have to go,” Celenza said.

The Georgetown College Faculty Convocation is held annually to honor the work of professors who excel in the classroom and make a difference in students’ lives.

— Patrick Curran