Chemist Wins National Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
Dr. Amandeep Sra
Sra is the recipient of the 2018 Centennial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from Iota Sigma Pi, the national honor society for women in chemistry. Founded in 1902, Iota Sigma Pi serves to promote the advancement of women in chemistry by granting recognition to women who have demonstrated superior scholastic achievement and high professionalism.
The organization presents several awards to professionals in the field of chemistry and scholarships to graduate, undergraduate and high school students. The Centennial Award is given each year to a female educator for excellence in teaching chemistry.
Sra teaches freshman- and sophomore-level chemistry, and is the general chemistry lab coordinator in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. These classes enroll about 250 students per lecture section, and each semester serve about 1,200 students in the lab.
Such large classes include a large number of nontraditional students, many of whom said in nomination letters for the award that Sra finds ways to reach everyone and will go above and beyond with workshops, study sessions and mentoring to help students understand the material.
“Having one-on-one interaction with students is very important. As I get to know them, I feel I can better help them in the areas they need most.”
“Having one-on-one interaction with students is very important,” Sra said. “As I get to know them, I feel I can better help them in the areas they need most.”
Before she began teaching part time in 2011 and full time in 2012, Sra conducted research in materials science and engineering and electrical engineering at UT Dallas, and did biomedical research at the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Such diverse research experiences have made her a better teacher, she said.
“My basic training is as a chemist,” said Sra, who earned her PhD in chemistry at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in India. “Multidisciplinary research experiences have helped me a lot because freshmen who take my classes have different majors.
“My knowledge from working in a biology-oriented field, as well as in materials science and electrical engineering, has helped me integrate these topics into teaching chemistry. I think this has been really helpful for the students because now they see that chemistry is not just an isolated subject, but is the basic foundation of many sciences.”
Sra was nominated for the national award by Dr. Julia Chan, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UT Dallas, who won the 2008 Agnes Fay Morgan Research Award from Iota Sigma Pi. That award recognizes the achievements of scientists under the age of 40.
“Dr. Sra is creative and able to inspire students because of her ability to integrate current research trends, and this effort is not trivial,” Chan said. “She is also a mentor to veterans and nontraditional students in her classes, and she takes an active role in ensuring students' success.”
Sra also received UT Dallas’ 2018 President’s Teaching Excellence Award in Undergraduate Instruction for a non-tenure-track faculty member and a 2017 Outstanding Teaching Award from the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
“When I first started teaching, it was part-time. But once I realized how much I enjoyed it and enjoyed interacting with students, I decided it was a good career move to switch to full-time teaching,” Sra said.
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