Undergraduate research projects remain the single most valuable educational experience we provide for science majors.

Rob Stockland

When Rob Stockland received Bucknell's William Pierce Boger, Jr., M.D. Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Natural Sciences in 2010, his colleagues described him as "a student-centered teacher-scholar who brings chemistry to life." The professor of organic and inorganic chemistry says the key to making his subject matter accessible to students is getting them to connect fundamental concepts in chemistry with current challenges in science and medicine.

Stockland bases much of his course content on recent results in primary literature. "Students have to know about current developments in the field," he says. "Take the new metal-based anticancer agents, for example. I make sure my students know about them as well as cisplatin. Textbooks are the foundation. But my students have to know what is happening today."

His commitment to research and teaching extends beyond the academic year. Every summer he oversees an intensive summer research session in which a handful of students join him in his laboratory to gain additional hands-on experience. "It's a chance for students to focus on original work," he says. "With that level of focus, they can make significant progress on their projects.

"Undergraduate research projects remain the single most valuable educational experience we provide for science majors," he explains. "Many of my former students have reported that they are very thankful for the research experience because it pushed them to think critically about how to approach modern chemical research."

During his time at Bucknell, Stockland has published 21 papers listing 39 undergraduate coauthors. These collaborative accomplishments include: research findings that were highlighted on organic-chemistry.org, a review in Current Organic Chemistry that was one of the most accessed from 2008-2010, and a paper on P-H activation that Dalton Transactions named a "HOT Article" for 2011. Accomplishments like these would look good on any chemist's resume, he says, but for this to occur for students at the undergraduate level is extraordinary. 

Posted September 26, 2013