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Xin Zhang Receives Priestley Teaching Prize

22 April 2021
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Xin Zhang

The Department of Chemistry is pleased to announce that Xin Zhang, Paul and Mildred Berg Early Career Professor of Chemistry, has been named the 2020 recipient of the Priestley Teaching Prize, which is awarded annually by the department.

The Priestley Prize was established in 2002 to recognize the best undergraduate teachers in the Department of Chemistry, as measured by the increase in learning and enthusiasm for the subject of the students in chemistry courses.

Zhang was recognized for his work in CHEM 110B, a course that introduces students to the basic principles of chemistry with a special emphasis on how this information applies to the life sciences. This year, CHEM 110B also covered topics such as remdesivir as an antiviral drug, SARS-CoV-2 protease, the spike glycoprotein, and ethical concerns related to vaccine testing.

“I am fortunate to teach CHEM 110 along with exceptional colleagues in our department,” notes Zhang. “This honor truly belongs to the team of CHEM 110 and 110B. Our lovely students, TA, and LAs have shown a great level of understanding of the situation and passion for learning that is truly inspiring to me. I owe lots of thanks to our teaching faculty, from whom I have learned so much about teaching skills and philosophies...Teaching is my passion, and I cannot achieve anything without the support of my students and colleagues.”

Students certainly appreciated this enthusiasm and commitment to teaching. They also responded positively to the biological focus of CHEM 110B, and Zhang aims to continue this success by collaborating with other department members to expand this biological curriculum to other chemistry courses at Penn State. He also plans to introduce new teaching initiatives such as at-home experiments to facilitate COVID safe research and “flipped classroom” lectures, which allow students to engage in active learning.

Phil Bevilacqua, head of the Department of Chemistry, adds, “Xin has excelled in both his teaching and his research.  His overall scholarship is terrific to see and brings great distinction to the department.”

The Priestley Teaching Prize will be formally presented to Zhang in a virtual in the coming weeks.