Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2007

Faculty Award winner

Otto Phanstiel

 College of Sciences


I image myself as a co-journeyer, who walks with students through the key concepts of the course and challenges them to solve new problems using these ideas. Revising and creating new curriculum is necessary to prepare our students for their careers. Over the past three years I have worked with other faculty to facilitate the implementation of the interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Biomolecular Science and the Ph.D. in Chemistry. The challenge was to find a common thread to weave together an interdisciplinary curriculum for students with diverse backgrounds in chemistry, biology and molecular biology. Structure-function relationships were chosen as the focus of the core course. In this manner students can bridge from the atoms-to-the-animals using their understanding of biomolecular interactions. I also revamped Applied Organic Synthesis, CHS 6251, to illustrate modern synthetic techniques using organometallic reagents. This change empowers our graduates to excel in any environment requiring efficient organic synthetic methods. Research students are trained in modern laboratory techniques such as organic synthesis as these skills are necessary for their future employment. The training includes weekly problem-solving sessions, which help students to think critically about their data and lab techniques. In short, it makes them better scientists.

Beyond providing a stimulating research environment, I assist students in achieving their full potential as evidenced by their matriculation into medical school or their obtainment of high paying jobs within the pharmaceutical industry. I believe in supporting Orlando's youth and have mentored local high school students and have judged local, regional and state science fairs. Perhaps, the most important outcomes from the students in my group are their numerous peer-reviewed publications and presentations and over $1M in acquired funding.

Organic Chemistry requires specialized instruction because a new chemical language must be learned. Students must understand why things happen and be able to explain these chemical concepts to non-scientists. By providing a highly structured environment and cooperative learning methods, I maintain a high standard and expect exceptional performance. The best gift I can give UCF students is to empower them with the ability to write and speak intelligently about science.