Prof. Claudia Novack (CHEM) wins excellence in teaching award, discusses lessons of

Prof. Claudia Novack (CHEM) wins excellence in teaching award, discusses lessons of

May 6, 2016

Claudia Novack, assistant professor of chemistry, was named the 2016 recipient of the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching. The award includes a $2,500 stipend and honors Brandeis faculty who demonstrate outstanding teaching.

The award recipient has strong ties to Brandeis, having met her husband at the university. She lives on a farm with her husband and son where they keep a horse, raise chickens, sell eggs and grow produce. She is also an avid cooker and baker.

Aside from teaching four chemistry courses, Novack has been involved in other academic pursuits at the university. She was involved in the creation of a visual library that holds countless chemistry slides, including movie clips and animations.

“I knew that the way I laid out information on the blackboard was very systematic, often diagrammatic and that it helped students learn by seeing, rather than just hearing. The more senses a learner can engage, the better the learning is in any discipline,” said Novack.

Novack also works with the Supplemental Instruction Leaders for her CHEM 11 course. After taking the course, usually in their first year, students are hired back and stay with the program until graduation. “That gives me four years to watch a group of six or seven students develop from incoming first-year students, with all of their fears and insecurities, into remarkable scholars and successful young adults,” said Novack. In addition to these programs, Novack had a Davis Teaching and Learning Fellowship.

She states that involvement in a large number of activities is the norm for a professor in her discipline. “All of my colleagues are busy and invested in every aspect of their work at Brandeis, whether it be in the classroom or in the research lab or in other aspects of university service,” she said.

Novack’s work in the chemistry department at Brandeis is not over yet, and she claims that there is still much room for the department to grow so it can begin to cover more specialized courses in chemistry. She noted that her students are her favorite aspect of working at Brandeis. “They have certainly paid for the right not to say ‘thank you,’ and yet they do—in person, in emails, in glowing course evaluations and in countless cards and letters that I receive every semester. It is very affirming.”

Novak’s outlook on chemistry extends beyond the academic setting. To her, the lessons of chemistry permeate into real life. “The more one knows about the way the world works in general, the better one understands chemistry, and the better one understands chemistry, the more one can know about how the world works,” she said.

The Hoot interviewed three professors who won teaching awards this year. Read about Jasmine Johnson (AAAS/WMGS) and Sarah Lamb (ANTH).

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