Nadine Szczepanski, Ph.D. '79
Lead Faculty for Natural Sciences and the Horace A. Shonle Professor of Chemistry
Nadine Szczepanski ’79 is the Lead Faculty for Natural Sciences and the Horace A. Shonle Professor of Chemistry. Before returning to her alma mater to teach, Szczepanski had an extensive and impressive career. She worked as an analytical chemist for the Illinois EPA before attending grad school. Once she completed grad school, she went to work for Owens-Corning Fiberglas® where she did research on how to make fiberglass stick better to plastics. This then lead Szczepanski to Permacel/Avery where she worked on improving pressure sensitive adhesives, and work at Mead Paper doing research on carbonless copy paper. “I have a US Patent for my work at Mead and a trade secret for my work at Permacel,” Szczepanski added.
Along with her various research experiences, Szczepanski worked as a mentor for the United States Chemistry Olympiad program for five years and she led her team to the International Chemistry Olympiad in 2000 in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2001 to Mumbai, India, in 2004 to Kiel, Germany, and in 2005 to Taipei, Taiwan. She also served as a judge on the Scientific Committee where she helped grade the organic portion of the competition which was held in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia in 2016. Because of her work with the Olympiad program, she was invited to serve as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the United Sates Air Force Academy.
Szczepanski’s previous work experience has helped benefit and enhance her class lessons and teaching style because of the work she’s done with chemists from around the world, and the knowledge she’s gained from their different teaching styles. “I try to use a variety of techniques that I hope will reach all of the students in some way,” she said. Szczepanski also believes that using numerous in class problems helps to get students involved with hands-on learning because she believes that the best way for students to learn how to solve chemistry problems is by doing them. It also gives her the opportunity to interact with the students. Szczepanski’s teaching style is meant to make chemistry less intimidating and to keep the class light-hearted. She says, “I am a big believer that a bad joke in chemistry is better than no joke at all”. This particular mentality is one way that Szczepanski makes her classes fun and makes chemistry easier to learn.
Szczepanski believes that the chemistry and biology programs differentiate themselves from other institutions because “we really embrace the MacFam concept.” It is important for her to help her students be as successful as possible. Another aspect that differentiates her program from others is how seriously student advising is taken. Szczepanski sees student advising as more than just helping students select courses, “it involves helping them stay on track for whatever career they are choosing.” When asked what she loves the most about Mac, she answered, “I love the students that come to Mac. It’s fun to watch how much they grow and mature while they are here.”