Plenary Speaker Profile (2011)
Melanie Cooper
Alumni Distinguished Professor, Chemistry; Interim Chair, Engineering and Science Education
Clemson University
Chemistry, Life, the Universe and Everything: A Research-Based General Chemistry Curriculum

Chemistry, Life, the Universe and Everything (CLUE) is a new general chemistry curriculum developed on the basis of prior and ongoing research into the fundamental concepts students need to learn, and effective ways to develop scientific process skills. The materials we have developed are a text and other tightly integrated learning materials both for online and in-class use. The text is intended as the driver for interest in the subject, it is written in an engaging style with a narrative theme that extends throughout the book – namely how we can move from an understanding of atomic structure to an understanding of complex biological systems. The accompanying materials include a website that incorporates both instructors and student sites and interactive activities based on our BeSocratic system (an interactive system that can recognize and respond to free-form student input).

We are piloting the course with general chemistry students for the 2010-11 academic year and will discuss our findings on how students in the CLUE treatment compare to a cohort of students taught in the traditional general chemistry sequence.

Melanie Cooper received her B.S. M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Manchester, England. She carried out postdoctoral work in organic chemistry before turning to chemical education as her area of research. She has been a faculty member in the Clemson chemistry department since 1987, where she teaches general and organic chemistry and chemistry education courses. Her appointment was ground-breaking, not only at Clemson but nationally, in that it was one of the first tenure track appointments in chemistry education in a chemistry department. Her research has focused on problem solving in a wide variety of areas, including laboratories and large enrollment lectures. She is interested in methods to assess and improve students problem solving abilities and strategies, and has focused on interventions that promote metacognitive activity. An outgrowth of this research is the development and assessment of evidence-driven, research-based curricula. She is a Fellow of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and has received a number of awards for excellence in teaching. In 2002 she was named an Alumni Distinguished Professor. She has also held a number of elected positions within ACS (American Chemical Society) and was the Chair of the Division of Chemical Education in 2007.