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Alumna Julia Winter receives ACS award for high school chemistry teaching

Alumna Julia Winter will receive the James Bryant Conant Award in High School Chemistry Teaching at the March American Chemical Society National Meeting. This award honors teachers for their quality of teaching, ability to challenge and inspire students, extracurricular work in chemistry, and willingness to keep up-to-date in the field.

Winter is honored as a teacher of the absolute highest caliber who constantly challenges her students, teaches with passion and inventiveness, and accepts nothing less than excellence from her students. She will be honored at an award symposium at the upcoming ACS national meeting in San Diego. Among the chemists who will make presentations at that event is Professor Tom Hoye, "Teaching moments in (and lessons learned from) the research laboratory.” The other speakers are John Gladysz, Berny Schlegel, and Allie Obermeyer.

She obtained Bachelor of Science degrees in chemistry and education from the University of Minnesota, and her master’s degree in chemistry from Wayne State University. She is a chemistry teacher at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills, MI, and is founder and chief executive officer of Alchemie.

Out of her love for organic chemistry and her desire to inspire a similar love of chemistry in her students, Winter creates mobile-device/game apps designed to help them understand organic chemistry concepts.

One of those is Chairs!, a mobile game based on cyclohexane conformation, helps students learn how to think visually. The game focuses on chair conformations—ring flips. It engages students in spatial reasoning exercises, which is key to mastering organic chemistry. The other is the Mechanism Game, which will help students map electron movements, which is also key to successfully understanding organic chemistry.

In an interview for Chemistry & Engineering News (C&EN), Winter wrote: “For the past two years, I have been transforming the knowledge gained over 20 years of teaching high school chemistry into mobile puzzle games for organic chemistry. Creating the balance between boredom and difficulty is the challenge for any game designer. It’s been an amazing process building these games for organic chemistry, which students will play just for fun!”

In addition to the James Bryant Conant Award, Winter has been honored with a grant from the National Science Foundation for small business innovative research, and the Teacher Trailblazer award from the 2015 Digital Innovation in Learning Awards.

Julia Winter comes from a family of chemists. Her husband Charles Winter is professor and associate chair of the Department of Chemistry at Wayne State University. He, too, has ties to the University of Minnesota, earning his doctorate in 1986 under the tutelage of the late-Professor Paul Gassman.