“Brian changes the conversation in classrooms and lecture halls,” said Richard Duschl, Waterbury chaired professor in secondary education, “such that students meaningfully learn chemistry for performances in life and not merely learning chemistry for one performance on an exam.”
Coppola has been teaching at Michigan since 1986, immediately beginning research on a blueprint to modify the university’s undergraduate chemistry curriculum. That research led to his tenure review in 1996, which showed the College of Literature, Science, and Arts (LSA) had a discipline-based teaching curriculum. He was upgraded to full professor of chemistry in 2001.
Since teaching at Michigan, Coppola has been named an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor (a title that endows him with a $20,000 grant to further his teaching prowess), associate chair in the LSA Department, associate director of Michigan’s dual effort with Peking University in China, and co-director of the Instructional Development and Educational Assessment (IDEA) Institute.
“Very quickly one recognizes the deep insights he has for communicating science to learners,” says Duschl. “Imagine my pleasant surprise when I opened up The Chronicle of Higher Education and read that he was the recipient of the Research 1 University Outstanding Teacher Award. I said, ‘I have got to get him here to Penn State.’” The Waterbury Lecture is held twice a semester and features prominent speakers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.