Walczak, Mary M.
St. Olaf College

Mary M. Walczak
Associate Professor & Chair
Department of Chemistry
St. Olaf College


Mary Walczak is Associate Professor and Chair of the Chemistry department at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. Before joining the faculty at St. Olaf in 1992, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Marc Porter in the chemistry department at Iowa State University. In Porter's lab she began working with self-assembled monolayers, the broad area of research she still pursues.

Mary got her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Iowa State University under the direction of Dr. Patricia Thiel. Her dissertation involved ultrahigh vacuum studies of oxygenated flurorcarbons and hydrocarbons at the Ru(001) surface. Mary graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in chemistry from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

I have long been interested in adopting alternative pedagogies in order to increase the learning of the students in my classroom. I have been involved in several projects related to this goal. I have co-authored a ChemLinks module "Should We Recommend Building a Copper Mine?" that addresses the chemical principles of redox readtions, complex solution equilbira and electrochemical cells and potentials, as well as the scientific skills of sampling, data analysis, communicating results, and the analysis of social impact. In addition, I have team taught an introductory chemistry course using modules.

I have also adopted the Role Playing approach to teaching Analytical Chemistry that was developed by my colleague John Walters. In this integrated class/lab course, interdependence and small-group learning is emphasized. Students are organized into "Companies" that include a Manager, a Chemist, a Software Specialist and a Hardware Specialist, reflecting the various roles of a professional Analytical Chemist. The four students rotate through the different roles throughout the semester. Each person assumes individual responsibility to solve a specific aspect of the problem from the perspective of his/her assigned role. The final solution is determined as the individual pieces begin to be integrated by the team.

My most recent project targets non-science majors and seeks to develop skills that will serve them throughout their lives as citizens faced with making decisions about scientific and technological issues.

Experience Pertinent to the Oberlin Assembly
Given my background, the topic for our PKAL Assembly is of great interest to me. This assembly will give me the opportunity to learn more about different pedagogical approaches that I will incorporate into my teaching.