Discovery: Chemistry meets nature
Chemistry Professor Patrick L. Daubenmire strives to teach students about more than the nuts and bolts of chemistry. He wants them to understand why the subject is valuable and how it affects people’s lives—particularly with regard to sustainability.
“It’s critical to impart those concepts,” Daubenmire says. “Students need to be aware of the science that is helping us think about what we can and can’t do with natural resources.”
As part of his mission, he was part of a Chicago-area volunteer program for high school students to emphasize the intersection of chemistry and sustainability.
“For example, the Law of Conservation of Matter corresponds to why our trash doesn’t just go away,” Daubenmire says. “Or the limitations of energy transformations explain why we’ll eventually run out of fossil fuels.”
In addition to classroom lessons, the high school students were encouraged to monitor their household energy and water usage and to lower them over the course of the program.
“We saw a change in pro-environmental behaviors in all students—even the ones who just got classroom lessons,” Daubenmire says. “It was wonderfully surprising. Based on the amount of participation, we saw some change in family members’ behaviors as well.”
Daubenmire is one of four recipients of the 2015 Award for Incorporation of Sustainability into Chemistry Education, a prestigious award from the American Chemical Society and its Committee on Environmental Improvement. Daubenmire has also received the Loyola Excellence in Teaching Freshmen award. He teaches general chemistry as well as the University core-scientific foundations course.