Winner of the A.J. ERSTED AWARD FOR DISTINGUISHED TEACHING: Cathy Wong, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences

A.J. ERSTED AWARD FOR DISTINGUISHED TEACHING

Cathy Wong, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences

"It means a lot to be recognized for doing something that helps people."

Classes with Wong:

CH 224Advanced General Chemistry I
CH 418/518 Physical Chemistry Laboratory
CH 443/543 Quantum Mechanics and Spectroscopy

What does winning this award mean to you?
It means a lot to be recognized for doing something that helps people.

If you received this award on stage at a ceremony like the Oscars or the Grammys, what would you say?
This award is incredibly humbling. There are so many amazing teachers amongst our faculty. It has been inspiring and heartening to see so many of my colleagues approach teaching with an earnest desire to help students and optimize their learning. I thank them for inspiring me, and also thank my students who have made teaching so much fun.

How would you describe what you do (i.e. teaching, research, etc.) to someone outside of the UO?
I teach a physical chemistry lab and a class on spectroscopy. They are both about how we can measure and understand how molecules behave. These ideas extend to my research: I build new instruments that can perform measurements really quickly – so quickly that we can actually measure materials while they’re being created and figure out how we can control their properties. We mostly study materials that have applications in solar energy or energy-efficient lighting.

What was your favorite class or subject in high school? College?
In high school I loved everything except chemistry: English, algebra and geometry, and gym class were my favorites. I thought chemistry was terribly boring at the time, but it got a lot more interesting in college!

What’s the most inspiring classroom moment you’ve experienced, either as a student or a teacher?
It’s awesome when someone who doesn’t think of themselves as a top student is selected as one of the best during anonymous peer-review activities. Sometimes you can see that bit of positive reinforcement really activate a student.

What are you listening to right now OR what is your favorite music to put on?
I just finished The Overstory audiobook and enjoy podcasts like “You’re Wrong About.”

As you have transitioned to teaching remotely, what has been your guiding principle to ensure your students get the most out of your instruction?
It’s easy to forget our students’ individuality when everyone is just a Zoom square. It has been helpful to contact students individually to provide feedback and encouragement, so they know that I am paying attention to their individual progress and want to help them with their particular issues and problems. Hopefully those conversations help students feel seen and engaged.

Where can you be found when you’re not in the classroom (or in front of your computer on Zoom!)?
Backpacking. Or being the oddball with a kitchen scale at the store, figuring out which pair of socks is the lightest.

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