Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto
U of T Chemistry News

Andy Dicks wins 2018 RSC Education Award

May 8, 2018

Professor Andy Dicks was announced today as the winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry 2018 Education Award.

The Education Award recognizes a major contribution to education in the chemical sciences, over a sustained period of time. Andy has received this award for his innovation in organic chemistry education research and practice, most significantly his work teaching green chemistry principles to undergraduates through novel laboratory activities. Read more from the RSC announcement below:

Whether Andrew is teaching introductory courses to life science students who have little concern for chemistry, or teaching undergraduate and graduate chemists, he says ‘engagement of students is crucial – they need to pick up skills in addition to subject-specific knowledge, such as critical thinking and the ability to analyse conflicting evidence.’ This philosophy underpins his research interests, from exploring different assessment methods to embedding green chemistry principles into the undergraduate organic curriculum.

Andrew has introduced oral exams in specific courses, finding that taking students out of their comfort zone enriches their learning experience. His innovative approach to teaching green chemistry involves first equipping students with practical skills through recipe-driven syntheses that have a real-life application, such as making sunscreens. Then he develops their critical thinking skills by getting them to design their own syntheses that are as green as possible. Initially, students are nervous and uncomfortable, he says, but by the end of this model research activity, they reflect on what they are doing and have a deeper and more rewarding experience. ‘They absolutely love it,’ he enthuses.