Issue Date: February 21, 2011
George C. Pimentel Award In Chemical Education
“For outstanding contributions to chemical education, including the training of professional chemists, the dissemination of reliable information about chemistry, and the integration of chemistry into our educational system,” William R. Robinson of Purdue University is being honored.
Robinson, 71, a professor of chemistry and science education, has been active in teaching chemistry and research for the past 43 years. “There are a number of members of the chemical education community who would have floundered without his help and who might not have made it without his support,” a colleague says.
Robinson himself owes his initial interest in chemistry to his mother. “After a disastrous eighth-grade science course spent filling in worksheets, I swore never to take another science course,” he explains. “I wanted Junior Business as my ninth-grade elective, but my mom marched me into ninth-grade science where a great teacher showed me science could be fascinating.”
An internationally known inorganic chemist, Robinson received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Technological College. He then earned a doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1966. Shortly after graduation, Robinson accepted a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Sheffield, in England, for a year.
Upon returning to the U.S., Robinson accepted a position as an assistant professor of chemistry at Purdue in 1967. Apart from brief sabbaticals, Robinson has remained at Purdue, where he continues to teach and conduct research on chemical education.
In the 1980s, Robinson began to focus on the process of chemistry education and in particular how to improve it. He became a proponent of innovative techniques including the use of software and websites. From 1980 to 1997, Robinson coauthored five editions of the textbook “General Chemistry,” which helped shape thousands of general chemistry students across the nation. He has published more than 85 papers and has also written a column for the Journal of Chemical Education (JCE) for more than eight years.
Some of Robinson’s current research interests include the contribution of learning qualitative concepts to success in chemistry, the response of students and graduate assistants to cooperative learning in chemistry at the college level, and the learning that occurs in the chemistry laboratory.
In addition to the Pimentel Award, Robinson has received a Frank D. Martin Teaching Award from Purdue and a fellowship from Project SERAPHIM, an NSF-funded program for developing chemistry software and integrating technology into chemical education.
An ACS member of 49 years, Robinson chaired the Division of Chemical Education from 2002 to 2004. He also served on JCE’s publishing board from 2001 to 2004. Robinson was the general chair of the 19th Biennial Conference on Chemical Education, held at Purdue in 2006. He is also an active member of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, the National Science Teachers Association, and Sigma Xi.
Robinson is the “proud, happy, and content husband of Sue Nurrenbern,” he says, and equally proud father of one daughter, Margaret, and two sons, Brian and Kevin. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and music and has recently become a fan of soccer, specifically, of the English Premier League.
Robinson will present the award address before the Division of Chemical Education.
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