New chemistry professor ‘thrilled’ to join university
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 21:09
Students and faculty faced an unexpected loss last fall with the sudden death of Mary Beth Kramer of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department on Oct. 14.
Her passing left an estimated 800 students in CHEM 103 and 104 without an instructor. James Wingrave of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department stepped in temporarily to fill Kramer’s shoes, instructing not only most of her 800 students but his own two sections’ worth, while department chair Klaus Theopold instructed the remaining students, those in CHEM 104.
The goal was to hire two new faculty members for this year to teach some of the seven undergraduate freshman courses in chemistry, Burmesiter says. This is because, he says, the four regular (non-honors) sections of CHEM 103 have grown in enrollment over the years, from 738 students in 2006 to 1,255 in 2012. These new professors, like many of the existing faculty members, would be teaching a large load in terms of contact and numbers.
A saving grace for the department came when Jacqueline Fajardo applied for one of the open positions. Although initially worried about handing in a particularly late application in May, Fajardo says she was “thrilled” when she received the job as assistant professor of chemistry, along with Mark Bailey who filled the other spot.
Fajardo comes from a long background of chemistry, specifically biochemistry. She says after taking undergraduate courses in chemistry in Denver, she was presented with a research opportunity called the Science and Engineering Research Semester offered by the government at the Department of Energy. With this opportunity, she relocated to Richland, Wash. to serve as an intern to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for a semester. That semester turned into almost three years. She began to consider science as a career option.
She pursued her undergraduate career at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. She then continued to participate in research and accomplished what she says was one of her “proudest achievements” — solving a protein structure using the technique of X-Ray Crystallography. Afterward, she moved back to Colorado and pursued a PhD in Chemical Education at the University of Northern Colorado.
Fajardo considers this to be one of her dream jobs, as she was eyeing Delaware for quite some time, she says. She was especially drawn to the university and its chemistry faculty for its known efforts in problem-based learning, which she says breaks away from a “dry lecture format” and uses “application and problems.”
This semester, Fajardo is teaching two sections of about 100 students each in CHEM 103. Fajardo’s more traditional chemistry course includes lecture as well as laboratory and workshop time.
For teaching the required concepts, Fajardo says it is important to give relevance as opposed to just presenting the material and expecting students to simply learn it. She says when students can see a demonstration and bring a concept to life, they find meaning in it.
“It is important to explain why we are teaching that particular concept,” Fajardo says.
Her present focus is to integrate the university’s various new technology resources into her curriculum, which she says she finds very useful yet challenging.
James Hartman, who says to be a chemistry graduate student who works with Fajardo and CHEM 103 students, says Fajardo has been “working and studying many methods and examples of different teaching styles to better help the students grasp and understand the material [...] There is not a day that goes by that I do not see her actively working or changing her presentations.”
Fajardo says her favorite topics in CHEM 103 include the structures of molecular compounds and how they relate to the compounds’ function, electron configuration and valence shell electron pair repulsion theory. When able to instruct CHEM 104, she looks forward to teaching chemical equilibrium, she says.
Fajardo says she has a passion and enthusiasm for her job and its topics of study. Burmesiter says he recognizes her, along with Bailey’s, love for and commitment to teaching. He says he constantly receives questions from the two, which to him display their excited and dedicated involvement in the undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry program.
“We need people like Jackie Fajardo [and] Mark Bailey [...] they are critical parts in our overall teaching program,” Burmeister says.
Being new to the department and unknown by many students, Fajardo says she would like the student body to know her door is always open outside of lecture. Hartman says he has seen her walking into her students’ laboratory classes to see how they are doing outside of her lecture. Fajardo says she would love for students to come by aside from just during her designated office hours and be able to work through problems with them on her board. She also says help sessions are a way for her to work with students in a one-on-one environment.
Fajardo’s enthusiasm and energy has caused her to stand out from other professors, Hartman says.
He also says “Working together with Dr. Fajardo has been a wonderful experience.”