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  • Professor Hannah Sevian
    02/20/20 - 9:45 AM to 11:00 AM

    Student Seminar Series: Professor Hannah Sevian

    Student Seminar Series

Chemical Thinking and Social Justice

Chemical thinking is the application of chemistry knowledge and practices with the intent to synthesize, analyze, and transform matter for practical purposes. Scientifically literate individuals, as well as chemists, must rely on chemical thinking to answer practical questions, such as how to dispose of batteries, what containers are safe for storing different foods, and what fuels impart least damage to the planet. A chemical thinking perspective on teaching chemistry can promote social justice when it connects the practical aims of chemistry to people’s lived experiences and their motivations to improve the human experience. The chemical thinking framework is a discipline-specific nature of science theory that organizes the discipline of chemistry in a way that learners’ use of chemical thinking can be mapped and their learning growth can be measured. The framework will be described through examples of teaching from this perspective that illustrate promotion of social justice. Representative findings will be shared which are drawn from empirical studies of the benefits-costs-risks question (What are the consequences of using and producing matter?), one of the six core disciplinary concepts of chemical thinking. Implications for the design and implementation of learning activities will be discussed.


Research in Professor Hannah Sevian's lab is concerned with studying how students develop chemical thinking and reasoning over many years of training in chemistry (middle school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate school), how problem-solving in chemistry is similar to and different from problem-solving in other disciplines, how a focus on green chemistry influences students' learning of chemistry, how scientists can learn from teachers to communicate science more effectively, and policies and practices needed to ensure chemical literacy. The unifying feature of her work is that it is directed at improving equity and creating capacity for students, particularly in urban public education, to have access to learning chemistry.

Professor Sevian

Hannah Sevian is a professor in the Chemistry Department and graduate program director in the School or Science & Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts. She is also a member of the Center of Science and Mathematics in Context. She earned a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and master's degrees in philosophy and science from Columbia University. Before that, she completed a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her training also includes post-doctoral work in theoretical polymer chemistry at Dartmouth College, seven years of teaching chemistry and physics in English and Spanish in urban and rural public high schools, and experimental materials science research while working as a visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also served as a program officer in the Division of Undergraduate Education and the Division of Research on Learning at the National Science Foundation. She has been on the faculty at the University of Massachusetts since 2001.

  • Event Details

    Location: 331 Smith Hall
    Host: Celina Harris and Meghan McGreal
    • Professor Hannah Sevian
    • Hannah Sevian
    • Department of Chemistry, College of Science & Mathematics
    • University of Massachusetts
    • Boston

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