The Luther W. and Bernice L. Thompson Distinguished Teaching Award is presented annually to a recently tenured faculty member. The recipient of this award traditionally delivers the Fall Honors Day address. This year’s award winner is Professor Shelli Frey.
Professor Frey is a native of rural upstate New York, “in the middle of nowhere” in her words. She showed an early interest in science through her hunting of frogs from a nearby pond. She and her sisters “raised” these frogs in the family kiddie pool until they escaped or were appropriated by neighborhood boys to be fed to a snake.
Although her initial interest lay in molecular biology, upon arrival at Haverford College Shelli discovered a love of general chemistry when she found how simple chemical rules explain everything. After receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry from Haverford in 2001, she earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Chicago. Following a year as a visiting instructor at Wabash College, Shelli arrived at Gettysburg as an assistant professor in 2008. She describes herself as a biophysical chemist who uses chemical and physical tools to answer fundamental questions in biology/biomedicine. The courses she teaches range from general chemistry to biochemistry to physical chemistry to biophysics.
Under the auspices of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education grant, Professor Frey (with co-teachers in physics and biology) has introduced three new interdisciplinary courses into the science curriculum. These interdisciplinary ventures demonstrate her commitment to students learning to address scientific problems that blur the lines between disciplines.
Shelli notes that as an undergraduate she benefitted from having key mentors who shaped her development by providing the tools for problem solving rather than rote memorization. She continues this through her own work, regularly working with 2-3 students in her lab at any given time and giving them the freedom to find their own way, make mistakes and ultimately discover the “magic” of science as the project moves forward. Her approach of providing not only technical skills but also critical thinking skills and the freedom and responsibility to apply these skills has made her a highly sought mentor for students conducting research and is representative of what we strive for at liberal arts institutions.
Professor Shelli Frey is a dedicated, passionate teacher and researcher who successfully imbues students with her enthusiasm and quest for knowledge. She is a deserving recipient of the distinguished teaching award and we are fortunate to count her among our faculty at Gettysburg College. Her talk was entitled: Should. Have to! Want to?.
Introduction by Associate Provost, Rob Bohrer