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Excellence in Teaching 2023 – Amanda Jonsson 

June 15, 2023

From upper-level students engaged in research to the new students she leads in introductory chemistry courses, Associate Professor Amanda Jonsson is someone who thrives by exciting each learner, at their ability. 

Jonsson accepted a teaching position with the UW-Stevens Point Department of Chemistry in 2013 after completing post-doctoral work at the University of Chicago. She said in her early days on campus she was grateful to benefit from the support of her colleagues, who shared materials and were generous with their time as she transitioned from a research background to a university teaching focus.  

Associate Professor Amanda Jonsson, chemistry, received an 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award.
Associate Professor Amanda Jonsson, chemistry, received an 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award.

Earning a University Excellence in Teaching Award this spring came as an “incredible surprise” for Jonsson. It verifies that her intentional shift toward more interactive and inclusive teaching methods is meeting her goals, building a community that supports student success. Sometimes, she says, students really need to hear the most basic truths. 

“Like knowing that struggling in a college class is normal,” said Jonsson.  

By communicating early and often about the outcomes for each unit, Jonsson said she strives to be very specific about the depth of knowledge each student needs to excel in her courses. She enjoys the diversity of chemistry knowledge across her courses each semester and tries to empower students to feel they belong in every course, regardless of the scientific knowledge they have. 

“I love trying to get people excited about chemistry and scientific methods who weren’t exposed to it before,” she said.  

Chemistry department colleague Professor Erin Speetzen has collaborated with Jonsson on courses, including in biophysical chemistry. In writing a nomination letter for Jonsson’s award, Speetzen shared how the once lecture-based, exam-heavy course has been shaped by Jonsson’s ideas into an engaging course focused on authentic assessments of student learning.   

“Amanda has demonstrated time and time again her ability to create engaging, well-designed courses at all levels in our curriculum,” said Speetzen, director of the Center for Inclusive Teaching and Learning.  

She may have a reputation for covering a lot of material in her courses, admits Jonsson, but when her students are tasked with giving presentations and writing assignments, Jonsson often provides students with choices to make their learning active and engaging. 

One of Jonsson’s advisees, Kaylee Wilker, a biochemistry and Spanish major, joined Jonsson in research during the 2023 spring semester, at a time when Jonsson was just restarting research in the chemistry lab. 

“We learned how to use the instruments together in the research, on the fly,” Jonsson said.  

Her project, “How Ligand Binding Impacts Protein Stability,” will study how different molecules bind to the bovine serum albumin (BSA) protein and how the proteins are transferred in the bloodstream. Beginning with replicating past literature, the research continuing this fall will study proteins using fluorescence spectroscopy.  

“It’s wild we can learn so much about these proteins, by labeling and collecting data,” said Wilker. 

Wilker is eager to learn the ways in which the albumin protein, one of the most abundant in the blood, interacts with molecules and how the proteins can transfer vitamins or medications through the blood. She also expects her role in the faculty-mentored research will be powerful experience as she expects to pursue graduate school in the field. 

“I can tell Dr. Jonsson is invested in her students’ success,” Wilker said.