Chemical Educator, Professor

Diane Bunce

For Diane Bunce, chemistry is a human endeavor. "Chemistry was invented by humans to help them understand the world around them. Therefore, anyone who wants to be able to understand it should be able to." Yet in teaching both high school and college students, Diane has seen some very capable students struggle with chemistry. She has, thus, made it a personal goal to address that "disconnect" that can occur between a student and the process of learning chemistry.

After teaching high school for 6 years, Diane went back and got her Ph.D. and has been at Catholic University for 17 years now. She is an Associate Professor of Chemistry, teaching courses for nursing students and non-science majors, as well as graduate courses in chemical education research. "The national rate for dropping out or getting a D in chemistry is 30%," she explains. "I do research on why people can’t learn chemistry, and look into ways to close the gap between how chemistry is taught and the way the brain is hard-wired to learn."

But aren’t good teachers just born? According to Diane, "By making small changes in the way chemistry is taught, we’re able to pick up a group or sub-group of the class that may not be as traditionally successful." Some of her techniques have been particularly successful with women...and without adversely affecting men.

Diane knows all about high standards, too. She is one of the original authors of the ACS high school chemistry text book, ChemCom, and one of the original authors of the ACS curriculum for non-science majors, Chemistry in Context. "I will not lower the bar," she stresses. "But I will help my students get over it."

"My mission is to make the experience of studying chemistry understandable for anyone who wants to learn it."