• Nation’s largest award for top teaching brings UCLA chemistry prof to Baylor

    Every two years, Baylor’s Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching brings one of the nation’s best professors not already here at Baylor to Waco for a semester, allowing BU students to benefit from his or her excellence in the classroom. First awarded in 1991, the award remains our country’s only national award presented by a college or university for exceptional teaching, and carries with it an exceptional monetary reward for both the professor and his or her school.

    The 2018 Cherry Award recipient is Dr. Neil K. Garg, professor of organic chemistry at UCLA. Garg’s research has solved long-standing problems in chemistry, and many of his discoveries are now used to create the medicines of tomorrow. His long, long list of honors includes many that represent his contributions to the field of chemistry, but Garg has received even more accolades for his teaching. At UCLA, he is famous among students for making a class most would dread — organic chemistry — into one of the school’s most popular.

    His unique teaching style includes online tutorials he calls BACON (Biology And Chemistry Online Notes), an extra credit assignment to make a music video about o-chem, and a new app called “Backside Attack,” developed with the help of his former undergraduate students. He even published The Organic Coloring Book — coauthored by his two young daughters, ages 10 and 6 — to teach children the wonders of organic chemistry.

    “I think in a lot of ways what I’m trying to do is empower students to have that feeling of invincibility so when they face a tough problem, they know how to solve it,” Garg says in the video above. “My view is that a class like organic chemistry can really be a vehicle to help students learn some problem-solving skills and also gain confidence in being able to solve really tough problems. Because that’s what we need them to do when they graduate from college, when they leave a place like UCLA. We need these people to be the problem solvers of tomorrow.”

    Garg’s list of honors includes UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award and Eby Award for the “Art of Teaching” (the university’s highest honors for teaching); California’s U.S. Professor of the Year from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; the Elias J. Corey Award for Outstanding Original Contribution in Organic Synthesis; the Royal Society of Chemistry fellowship and the group’s Merck Award for contributions to organic chemistry; and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

    Now, he can add Baylor’s Cherry Award to that list.

    Sic ’em, Dr. Garg!

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