posted November 19, 2007

Chemist Participates in NSF-Funded Project

Dr. Joanne Stewart of the Hope College faculty is one of seven chemists from colleges and universities across the nation participating in a project recently funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop an online resource to help professors of inorganic chemistry work together to improve their teaching.

The project is titled "IONiC," for "Intellectual Online Network of Inorganic Chemists." It has received a $150,000 award for development during 2008 and 2009 through the NSF's "Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Initiative."

IONiC will use a Web site and other Internet technologies to develop a virtual community that will serve as a way for colleagues from a variety of institutions to work together conveniently regardless of distance to share and develop materials related to teaching in the discipline and to help each other improve through online discussions and workshops. Following the network's development and initial testing, it will become part of the National Science Digital Library, an online library for education and research in science that is available to scientists around the world.

A member of the Hope faculty since 1988, Stewart has been actively involved for several years both on campus and working with the broader teaching community nationwide in exploring and developing effective practices for teaching in the sciences in general and chemistry in particular.

She was one of only 21 college and university faculty nationwide named a Carnegie Scholar for 2005-06 by the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL), which seeks to establish and refine standards for the critical review of teaching and learning by faculty members in college and university classrooms. Through the years she has made presentations on cooperative learning at off-campus workshops sponsored by Project Kaleidoscope, the NSF and the Pew Mid-States Consortium, among others. At Hope she has been a workshop leader during the college's Teaching Enhancement Workshop for new faculty, and serves as director of integrative studies in the sciences for the college's Howard Hughes Medical Institute program. Her own research, which she conducts collaboratively with Hope students, is in synthetic inorganic chemistry.

In addition to Stewart, the project team consists of chemists from The Claremont Colleges of Claremont, Calif.; DePauw University of Greencastle, Ind.; Earlham College of Richmond, Ind.; Harvey Mudd College of Claremont, Calif.; James Madison University of Harrisonburg, Va.; and Reed College of Portland, Ore.; with Dr. Hilary Eppley of DePauw University serving as the principal investigator for the grant.

In addition to serving as a shortened form of the project's formal title, the "IONiC" name reflects the abbreviations of four elements (iodine, oxygen, nickel and carbon) from the Periodic Table, which factors extensively in inorganic chemistry. The name of the Web site, VIPEr (for Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource) is similarly inspired by the elements (vanadium, iodine, phosphorus and erbium).