Washington educator receives national award: Focuses on relating chemistry to everyday life

March 20, 2000

Focuses on relating chemistry to everyday life

Chemist Jerry A. Bell of Silver Spring, Md., will be honored on March 28 by the world's largest scientific society for his contributions to educational projects emphasizing real-world chemistry and more than 30 years teaching chemistry to college students. He will receive the George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education from the American Chemical Society at its national meeting in San Francisco.

Bell, who recently joined the staff of the Society's education division, is chief author of a new chemistry textbook designed for classes that include life science, engineering and chemistry majors. Due to be published in 2001, it is the latest product of a career spent demonstrating that chemistry and its study are relevant to everyday life.

First at the University of California, Riverside, and then for 25 years at Simmons College in Boston, Bell emphasized activities over lectures and "at bottom, the wonder of it all. If you just wonder about the world, if you have the ability to think about it in a logical way, all sorts of things happen that really are cool," he explained. "And it's neat to be able to understand how, not just that, they happen."

Bell has worked with middle-school students and teachers as well. In 1992, he joined the American Association for the Advancement of Science to direct educational programs in science and technology. They included Earth Explorer, a CD-ROM that augmented textbook studies, and working directly with teachers in field-oriented summer workshops.

"The idea was to get away from knee-jerk reactions and to get really thinking about the science behind an issue like the environment," he said. One series of field trips traced water flow as it carved Virginia's Shenandoah River, seeped underground to form caverns, drained through a plume of contaminated soil and finally flowed through a salt marsh into the Potomac River.

The George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education is sponsored by Union Carbide Corp. of South Charleston, W.Va.
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A nonprofit organization with a membership of 161,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society (www.acs.org) publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

American Chemical Society

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