University of Minnesota
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Two chemistry professors honored for teaching excellence

Department of Chemistry Professors Ken Leopold and Kent Mann have been selected as co-winners of the Brasted Award for Excellence in College Chemistry Teaching from the Minnesota Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS MN).

This award is given every three years for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. Professors Leopold and Mann were both cited for their excellence and enthusiasm for teaching, especially the large, first-year, undergraduate, general chemistry course, for serving as advisers and mentors to undergraduate students, and for introducing undergraduates to research projects in their groups. Both have received several awards for undergraduate teaching.

They will receive plaques, share a $500 honorarium, and present lectures on their activities at the ACS MN section meeting and awards ceremony, Monday, May 16.

About Ken Leopold

Professor Leopold has earned a George W. Taylor/College of Science & Engineering Alumni Society Award for Distinguished Teaching, and a Horace T. Morse—Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook in 1977, and his doctorate in chemistry from Harvard in 1983. Following a National Research Council postdoctoral appointment at the National Bureau Standards in Boulder, Colorado, he joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota in 1986. His research is in high resolution spectroscopy, and he has explored numerous topics including van der Waals and hydrogen bonding interactions, partially formed chemical bonds, environmental molecular complexes, and the chemical physics of proton transfer.

Leopold's presentation

Many students enter science with noble and, at times, narrowly focused goals of solving the world’s most pressing problems. Yet, the path to discovery is often indirect and serendipity plays a larger role than we may sometimes like to admit. This talk will describe the circuitous route that research has taken in my own laboratory, from basic studies of intermolecular forces to partially formed bonds, proton transfer, and atmospheric chemistry. This story reaffirms the unpredictability of fundamental research and its ability to capture the interest of aspiring scientists. As chemistry rightfully strives to tackle society’s “relevant” problems, let’s remember to continue to instill in our students the sense of awe that basic science can engender. Nature itself is “cool” and fundamental science still has a role to play, both in the laboratory and in the classroom.

About Kent Mann

Professor Mann is a recipient of the Horace T. Morse—Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, and earned his doctorate degree at the California Institute of Technology. In 1978, he arrived at the University of Minnesota to live his life-long dream to become a chemistry teacher.  He has directly mentored more than 30 undergraduates and 30 graduate students who have studied photochemistry, electrochemistry, and the development of sensor compounds. In addition to these academic interests, he enjoys fishing, sailing, tennis, and golf.

Mann's presentation

My talk will celebrate the accomplishments of the many talented undergraduates who have kept me excited about teaching and taught me so much about lab development and research. I especially hope to comment on the trials and tribulations involved with offering more than 400 students (spread out over more than 15 years) a research quality experience in a required upper level laboratory course.