Science Literacy – Teaching

Guenza’s group members (Marina with undergraduate student Thomas, graduate student Jay McCarty and master student Kadar Gelinas and a number of undergraduate and graduate students from Physics) have actively participated in curriculum design for the Science Literacy Program , where undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with the faculty in the design and teaching of new lectures using active learning methodologies. Undergraduate and graduate students are in this way trained to use novel teaching tools to improve science literacy and nurture learning in undergraduate non-science majors.

Marina Guenza co-designed and co-taught with physics colleague Michael Raymer the course Information Science, Quantum Mechanics, and the Molecules of Life co listed in Chemistry and Physics CH147/PHYS147. The course discusses how nature and evolution have worked together in modifying and optimizing the storage and transfer of information in biological systems, taking advantage of the structural properties of molecules.

The course presents and uses concepts from four different disciplines: computer science (information theory), physics (quantum mechanics and optics), chemistry (properties of the elements and how molecules are built), and biology (the biological function of proteins, DNA, and RNA, transcription and replication).

Those highly interactive, science literacy lectures are directed to undergraduate students that are non-science majors. The course has been offered during the past three years.


What is more exciting than designing a new course? Designing a new course that is potentially extremely useful to undergraduate and graduate students for both research and job training. A course that teaches concepts and tools that students can use everyday in their research life and in the job market! Tools that can make them more powerful in approaching scientific research and that can make them more competitive in the job market. This is the new Computational Chemistry course CH447/547 that Marina designed and taught during the past three years.

The course is “hands on” and combines theoretical lectures with a laboratory. It brings from the very first day the whole class into the realm of our powerful Cloud Computer Cluster, ACISS, at the University of Oregon. Students learn to use UNIX, manage their own accounts, work with bash scripting, finding, downloading, and installing the needed open-access computer codes, and finally running standard codes for the calculation of electronic structures (Gaussian) and for performing molecular dynamics computer simulations (Gromacs).

The lab teaches the students how to navigate the complex landscape of computational chemistry, using available state-of-the-art computer codes. The lectures teach how to choose the correct computational tool for the scientific problem to approach, and how to set up the proper input parameters for the correct calculations. The lectures teach how to use “the brain” and the physical knowledge when performing computational calculations.


Teaching, training, and mentoring undergraduate students

Our undergraduate students went places!

It is great to see the undergraduate students you mentored succeed, and succeed so well: nothing is more rewarding.

Here is a list of some of the undergraduate students who performed research in the Guenza Group and where they are now:
Ha Truong, Rice University, graduate student
Thomas Dannenhoffer, University of Chicago, graduate student
Michael Nellist, University of Oregon, graduate student
Crystal Valdez, UCLA, graduate student
Jenelle Bray, PhD from California Institute of Technology, Postdoc at Stanford University