Emily Weinert

The new chemistry class

Emory biochemist Emily Weinert has a confession to make. In her first semester of biochemistry in college, she didn't pay much attention. Why? "The course was traditionally taught with an emphasis on memorization," she says.

Thankfully, Weinert got beyond that first encounter with what became her favorite subject, and now the assistant professor has a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, two patents for postdoctoral work, and research that could impact the medical treatment of virtually all diseases.

"Chemistry over the years has gotten a bad rap for not being particularly interesting or enjoyable," Weinert says. "But education in the physical sciences is changing a lot from the traditional lecture-based class."

Take her CHEM 302 class, for example, where she guides students through the field's primary literature and helps them prepare grant proposals for their own research ideas. "Students can gain a deep understanding of fundamental concepts if they can learn critical analysis. I want them to be thinking about what they're interested in and to take full ownership of their projects and ideas."

Just concluding its third run, the class is credited with increasing the number of students interested in chemical biology. Weinert's approach also complements the department's initiative to re-envision its curriculum with the support of a $1.2 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The new framework, set to roll out in the fall of 2016, promises to maximize the potential of the Atwood Chemistry Center's newly completed expansion, which is designed to serve as a hub for the campus science commons.