Skip navigation
Ashley Donovan

Philadelphia!

Posted by Ashley Donovan Sep 3, 2016

On Thursday (August 18), I made my way to Drexel University's chemistry department and Prof. Daniel King, who I had previously met thanks to his many volunteer roles with the ACS. Prof. King and I spoke at length about Drexel's co-op program. This program, completed via either a four or five year track, gives students the opportunity to take classes for six months and spend the remaining six months of the year gaining work experience. Students spend time researching what companies they may want to work with; they then apply and are strongly encouraged to complete all interviews offered. Some chemistry students choose to perform research in an industrial chemistry setting; others use the time to work in a Drexel chemistry laboratory. Students can even apply for and work in a foreign country while earning a stipend. Many students find the co-op valuable in finding a job after school, both because of the process and the connections made during the experience.

I made the short walk (I was still on foot, but not officially 'running') to the University of Pennsylvania and happily connected with Prof. Neil Tomson-a recent attendee at the Cottrell Scholars Collaborative New Faculty Workshop hosted at ACS immediately prior to the run! It was great to get some feedback on the workshop before hearing about his inorganic research lab, where he works with a group of 5 graduate students, a postdoc, and an undergraduate research student. The chemistry department has a faculty 'working group' that formed to address teaching general chemistry (to consider topics like how to assess the effectiveness of teaching techniques and student learning), and the group has seminars dedicated to exploring novel teaching strategies. Prof. Tomson seems to really enjoy teaching, and likes the high expectations of teaching quality in the department.

That evening, my formal National Meeting events began. The event I was most directly responsible for coordinating occurred on Sunday. Over 30 graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members attended the Faculty and Postdoc Afternoon Networking Coffee Break. A short panel discussion featuring three faculty (one from a research-intensive university, one from a small private college, and one from a community college) was followed by an hour of networking time, where students got advice on how to start applying for faculty positions (and, more generally, life in academia). The participants were very engaged, and I hope the event continues to grow in the future. I was happy to participate in the Student Speed Networking event on Monday, where I interacted with undergraduate students and shared some advice and resources on how to make the transition to graduate school or to finding a job. ACS has some excellent resources for undergraduate and graduate students!

I was happy to begin and end the last day of running with some company. On the first half of the run I was joined by Haverford College Prof. Robert Scarrow, who showed me around some of the College's chemistry facilities before continuing towards St. Joseph's University. Prof. Scarrow described some of the curriculum changes the College has introduced to enhance the chemistry major, including creating a series of topical courses (such as Chemical Structure and Bonding) to replace the traditional general chemistry course. By trying to make the courses more exciting and engaging for students, the department has seen a substantial increase in the number of majors. A large number of majors perform research in addition to taking the junior-year research-based integrated 'Superlab'.

Upon arriving at St. Joseph's, I met my friend Dr. Tom Umile, a professor at Gwynedd Mercy University outside of Philadelphia. Prof. Scarrow headed back to Haverford as Tom and I took off for the city, enjoying some skyline views along MLK Drive. We ran up the famed art museum steps and enjoyed a view of downtown before completing the journey at the Pennsylvania a Convention Center. It was wonderful to finish the adventure with a friend, and I have greatly enjoyed his company and hospitality today. The trip to a surprisingly calm Reading Terminal Market was a bonus!

Tomorrow I hope to visit some of the many schools in Philadelphia--though I'm not sure the faculty will believe I ran here since I may take advantage of the luxury of wearing clean non-running clothes!

I was delighted to do a good chunk of today's miles along the lovely Chester Valley Trail before heading towards Lancaster Ave--putting me officially on Philadelphia's Main Line. I first arrived at Cabrini University and met with Life and Physical Sciences chair Dr. Anne Coleman and chemical safety and hygiene officer Cynthia McGauley. Though the two full time chemists were not on campus, I hope to run into them at the National Meeting (likely at one of the many chemical education talks?). Dr. Coleman described steps taken in the science department (including chemistry) to better support students who arrive with a weaker science/math background; it sounds like the faculty are eager to increase both participation and performance in chemistry. Chemistry majors are required to engage in an experiential learning semester and defend a thesis in their senior year.

I walked across the street (ok, I cut across a wooded area...) to Eastern University, but was sad to discover no faculty were available. I know from experience that many faculty enjoy the last few days of August before the return of students (and strange people claiming to have run from Washington?). I was more successful at Villanova University, where I spoke with Prof. Robert Giuliano. Our conversation touched on many topics, from the University's community service-focused students to continuing to evaluate what types of teaching and learning resources are most effective. Prof. Giuliano is co-author of an organic chemistry textbook, so it was most interesting to hear his perspective on the many tools available to students. I appreciated his 'one size does not fit all' approach to resource sharing!

A friend asked when I had last been at Bryn Mawr College, and I admit that I have not been back as often as I would like! I did remember the way to the Park Science Building where I ran into Prof. William Malachowski. I learned how the chemistry faculty have made some curriculum changes over the past decade. The department is offering new courses and adjusting major requirements (chemistry at Bryn Mawr, like at many schools, has a high number of required courses that in theory limit the ability of a student to double major, travel abroad, etc). Indeed, one aspect I always appreciated as a student at Bryn Mawr was how the faculty were always evaluating their courses and teaching and trying to determine if they could make improvements. Bryn Mawr also has a strong post baccalaureate premedical program (I assisted in teaching the general chemistry class after graduating and found the postbacs to be terrific students); it sounds as if that program continues to grow, presenting interesting challenges and opportunities.

I hope to have some company on my final leg into Philadelphia tomorrow--fingers crossed that the predicted storms don't cause too much of a delay. I look forward to stopping by Haverford and St. Joseph's, and of course I'm excited for that first glimpse of the city skyline!

Once again, not too much to report today. I would say to all the runners out there: today was probably not the ideal day to run 28 miles....but I was thankful to get the distance covered. Now I have a little bit of a leg up (heh) on tomorrow and Tuesday, when I will begin to run by many schools on the way into Philadelphia.

Home stretch! More tomorrow, and I hope some successful school visits to share.

Not much to report today. It's hot. I had planned for a low mileage day so my running was done very early. I've been enjoying a little extra rest here in Paradise (it's a town!).

Tomorrow I have 25 miles planned. A big day and an early start. Stay tuned!

As many of you on the east coast know, the heat and humidity have been increasing throughout the week. I began running at 06:15 today, and it was already somewhat unpleasant. It took me longer than normal to run 24 miles because I knew I needed to stay safe, which meant taking breaks in the shade, reapplying sunscreen, and keeping hydrated and fueled as best I could (I tend to not eat enough when it's this hot--it's a fairly common runner problem and I'm still working on the most effective way to get the calories I need). I can't remember ever being so thankful for the occasional roadside tree!

Despite the trying conditions, I finally made it to the campus of Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster. The chemistry department is housed in the Hackman Physical Science building (Hackman was in fact a chemistry major at the College many years ago). I met with the new department chair and active Instagrammer Prof. Edward Fenlon, who first told me about the College's undergraduate research program. Over 40 students, mainly chemistry and biochemistry majors, are able to perform summer research thanks to a variety of internal and external grants and funding opportunities. Students attend ACS National Meetings as well as other conferences, and the chemistry department typically has about 15 senior majors each year. A unique opportunity for a small number of incoming freshmen is the Moore-Schaeffer Mentorship Award for performing an abbreviated summer research program between the end of high school and beginning of college.

General chemistry and organic chemistry class sections are capped around 25 students, and the same students participate in both lecture and lab.

Over the past couple of years, the College's Quantitative and Science Center has held group peer-led tutoring and study skill development sessions for general and organic chemistry. This reminded me of my time spent coordinating a similarly-flavored program at Princeton's McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. It also led to an interesting discussion about professional development and career advancement for faculty; I was encouraged to hear a department chair speak enthusiastically about potential new approaches to evaluating undergraduate teaching.

I am hoping to continue my 'higher than planned mileage' tomorrow. This will make it easier to visit schools in the densely populated 'main line' area outside of Philadelphia. I just hope it's possible to catch a cab or an uber in the more rural areas to backtrack to the hotel....

Today's 16 mile run was one of the lower mileage days of this journey, but with the high heat and humidity, I didn't complain about having a bit of a 'break'. I arrived at Campbell Hall on the campus of York College of Pennsylvania around 11:00 and enjoyed a lengthy discussion with Dr. Gregory Foy, coordinator of the chemistry program in the Department of Physical Sciences. Dr. Foy coordinates courses for the approximately 100 chemistry majors, who are divided between chemistry, forensic chemistry, and medical laboratory science programs. Many of the chemistry laboratory instructors are in fact York College graduates; a number of medical laboratory science students are hired by WellSpan after completing a year of clinical work associated with the program.

York College has an active ACS Student Chapter. Each year the school sends 15-20 undergraduates to the Spring National Meeting, with financial support from the chemistry program, Dept. of Physical Sciences, Student Senate funding, local section grants, and student fundraising efforts. Dr. Foy also hosts an annual 'Education Night' to celebrate the accomplishments of local high school chemistry teachers, as well as high school and undergraduate chemistry students.

In addition to actively engaging with his local chemistry community, Dr. Foy also manages an ACS-supported program that allows students to attend the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This program began in the International Year of Chemistry and is an incredible opportunity for students (undergraduate and graduate) to travel, learn about international diplomacy, and write/blog about their experiences. Participants travel to ACS in late September and make visits to Capital Hill, meet expert reporters, and prepare for the COP (to be held this year in Morocco).

I am hoping to make it to Franklin and Marshall College tomorrow (i.e., before the weekend!)--a 24 mile run, but manageable if I can beat some of the heat with an earlier than 'usual' start time. Here's to an early night after a veggie pizza and some vanilla ice cream!

The majority of today's 23 miles were along the glorious NCR Trail, where I was given a respite from both the sun and the cars. While the high humidity, epic battles with gnats, and flatness of the trail presented their own challenges, I was grateful to get to run in such a beautiful location. I stopped for a smoothie at the Rail Trail Cafe just after crossing into Pennsylvania. Leaving the trail, I encountered some tough roads, but thankfully a fairly dangerous section lasted only a couple hundred feet...

My plan had been to return to the trail in the morning (now the Heritage Trail up here in PA), but I may continue north on another road that looks to have decent shoulders. It's always good to have a couple of options, so we'll see what the roads are like when I get out early in the morning. I'm looking forward to stopping by York College of Pennsylvania tomorrow afternoon!

After a good night's sleep, I started Day 3 of running with some company. Prof. Rigoberto Hernandez and I ran from downtown Baltimore up to the campus of Johns Hopkins University, where he recently accepted a faculty appointment in the Department of Chemistry. Prof. Hernandez showed me around his new campus and shared some advice on preparing for ACS National Meetings. Being a member of the Board of Directors and active in both research and outreach activities, Prof. Hernandez typically has a packed schedule from 08:00-22:00 every day of the National Meeting. To create a manageable agenda, he suggests first adding in any 'required' events. Then, remember that it's impossible to do everything in one meeting, so try to focus on key events that are unique to that meeting. If you want to have short meet-ups, tell people where you'll be before and after a certain time-you might be able to arrange a meeting, especially if your interests naturally overlap. Prof. Hernandez even makes time to exercise, which likely helps keep energy up! For more tips, check out one of his meeting-focused blogs.

I had hoped to meet with Prof. Tyrell McQueen, a Princeton Chemistry alumnus, but unfortunately wasn't able to track him down. I did, however, meet a graduate student who mentioned that he was impressed with Prof. McQueen's gifts as a mentor, especially for female graduate students. I was delighted to hear this, as mentoring is a subject that has been on my faculty development radar since day 1 of arriving at ACS.

I ran up Charles St. on my way to Towson University and enjoyed considerably easier and safer running than on Monday, thanks to extensive sidewalks. I arrived at Smith Hall and had a great time chatting with Prof. Keith Reber-yet another fellow Princeton Chemistry graduate! Prof. Reber, long interested in undergraduate education and teaching, was drawn to Towson as a primarily undergraduate institution with excellent instrumention/equipment, and especially likes the cordial attitude of the faculty. I learned that there are approximately 300 chemistry majors who fall into one of three 'tracks': forensic chemistry, secondary education, and professional. For students interested in graduate or professional schools (e.g., medical school), the professional track offers a 'cohort' program, where students concurrently enroll in organic and analytical chemistry, the latter being identified as a 'gatekeeper' course. It was interesting to hear about the transition from research-intensive schools to Towson and having to 'adjust expectations' for research (which, as a faculty member, entails thinking about shorter-term projects that are manageable for undergraduate students who a) face a natural learning curve in the lab and b) will spend less time on a project than a graduate student). That said, Prof. Reber and one of his students presented at ACS in San Diego, and the same student will be giving a talk on Sunday in Philadelphia.

My route north along York Road was more or less consistent undulating hills-but with sidewalks, it was pleasant. I tacked on a couple of extra miles since tomorrow the weather will turn hotter and possibly stormy. I will spend the next two days on the NCR Trail, which looks like it will be a genuine treat! For now, I am looking forward to meeting my colleague Dr. Margaret Grow-Sadler and her husband for dinner. I may even ride in something called a 'vehicle'?

Today's ~23 mile run started in Laurel, MD and ended next to Camden Yards in Baltimore. There were some tough running stretches along Route 1 (many miles were without sidewalks/shoulders), but thanks to my experience running across America I knew how to keep my chin up and keep going.

About 17 miles into the run, I landed on the UMBC campus outside of Baltimore. I downed some chocolate milk before heading to the chemistry department, where I met with Prof. Tara Carpenter and incoming senior Gaby, the president of the UMBC ACS Student Chapter. Prof. Carpenter told me about her general chemistry class: she uses a 'flipped classroom' for her classes of hundreds of students. By keeping a very structured syllabus, working with the Faculty Development Center, using online homework and readings, and starting classes with 'clicker questions' (where students use a handheld clicker to answer multiple choice questions that rank high on the Bloom's taxonomy scale), Prof. Carpenter has made many of her 'good students' into 'great students'. In place of the traditional lecture recitation, general chemistry students work in small groups at the Discovery Center. It was interesting to engage in this discussion only days after hearing about similar 'active learning' classroom strategies at the New Faculty Workshop! Prof. Carpenter will be presenting a poster in Philadelphia and I look forward to meeting up with her and her students.

I had hoped to make it to CCBC-Catonsville but decided to finish the run into Baltimore while I had good energy, as I predicted a thought-provoking final few miles going into town. Running through the economically challenged areas of any city always forces me to acknowledge how incredibly lucky and privileged I am. While I felt safe running and encountered many friendly people in west Baltimore, I knew how fortunate I was to be able to look forward to a clean hotel room and hot meal without wondering whether I would have to sacrifice something else.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to visiting Johns Hopkins and Towson, and am expecting some company along the way. Stay tuned!

Day 1 began at ACS at 07:00. My colleague Cecilia, her husband Javier, Chlorine Institute President Frank Reiner, and my parents joined for the start of the journey. My parents wished me well and the rest of us took off north on 16th street. Javier ran the longest, completing 8.5 miles before heading home. I came across 2 lovely trails during the second half of the run and arrived in Laurel, MD around noon. After a shower, a healthy dinner, and a few minutes of Olympic coverage, it's time for an early night.

Tomorrow I plan to stop by UMBC and Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville. Hopefully tomorrow's post will include a summary of successful school visits!

Day 1 of the Run to Philadelphia is just a few days away. While there are a lot of last minute items and questions to address (what will I bring? Should I ship things ahead to a hotel? Is anyone going to follow along-virtually or on foot?), there are also a couple of important events that are taking place as I write.

On Wednesday, I returned from the 2016 Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE) in Greeley, Colorado. It was fantastic to hear passionate educators sharing their experiences teaching chemistry, and I was able to put some faces to names that I have heard many times during my time at ACS. I was especially excited (and proud) that four of my classmates from graduate school were giving presentations! I am always very happy being in the mountains, so I did carve out some time for a gorgeous trail run and hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.

A workshop that ACS has co-sponsored for 5 years is the Cottrell Scholars Collaborative New Faculty Workshop. This two-day workshop provides important teaching and lab (and life) management skills for new faculty from research-intensive and primarily undergraduate institutions. We are hosting approximately 70 early career faculty through Saturday, and the workshop is always an intense and fun few days.

I am planning to start running around 07:00 on Sunday, August 7 at the ACS building in D.C. (1155 16th St NW). I hope some folks are able to share the beginning of the journey to Philadelphia!

Filter Blog