Congratulations to Professor Joshua Samani, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy for Receiving the 2017 My Last Lecture Award


Over 50 years ago, the “My Last Lecture” award was established to honor a UCLA professor who inspired students. Every year, the Alumni Scholars Club asks students from all over campus to vote for their favorite professor, the one whose teaching has inspired them the most. These notable UCLA professors were given the chance to put all of their life lessons and advice for students into one “last lecture.”

Hosted by the Alumni Scholars Club (ASC), this year’s award ceremony and lecture took place on Tuesday, May 16 from 7-9pm in the De Neve Auditorium.

Congrats, Professor Samani, and thank you for your inspirational teaching!

To see past recipients of this award and watch their lectures, please see the UCLA Alumni website here.

No Snoozing in Class with This Chemistry App

While e-books have entered some classrooms, STEM instruction has remained unchanged for nearly as long as the subjects have been taught. With his interactive app, Weinberg, a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University, hopes to inspire a new kind of classroom engagement.

Chem101, his first subject-specific tool, allows students to interact with and respond to an instructor in real time, and receive automated feedback to use in later classroom discussions. Take a topic that vexes a lot of first-year chemistry students: Lewis structures. Lewis structures, also known as Lewis dot diagrams, are two-dimensional drawings that show how molecules in an element are connected, as well as the shape of the molecule. During a lecture, students can use 101 to practice drawing these structures, which educators can then view, review and correct if needed. After a pilot study last fall, the app is being used at several major U.S. universities with much favorable feedback.


How Professors Can Improve the Engagement of Students in the Classroom

J. Mark McFadden offers advice on how you can change the temperature in your classroom without touching the thermostat.

Without question, a major classroom challenge facing today’s educators is getting their students to put down their phones and pick up their level of engagement. While a generation ago educators might find their students getting sidetracked by an attractive classmate, an enchanting daydream or passing notes about an upcoming tailgate party, today’s smartphones present educators with a whole new array of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

According to the 2011 article “The Use and Abuse of Cell Phones and Text Messaging in the Classroom: A Survey of College Students,” published in College Teaching, after surveying “269 college students from 21 academic majors at a small Northeastern university,” authors Deborah R. Tindall and Robert W. Bohlander found that “95 percent of students bring their phones to class every day, 92 percent use their phones to text message during class time and 10 percent admit they have texted during an exam on at least one occasion.”

After much trial and error, I have come to the conclusion that engaging my students is best accomplished by making them feel a bit anxious while keeping them in relatively close proximity to their comfort zone. I’ve had a great deal of success simply by rearranging the chairs in my classroom, making my students give pop oral reports on the previous night’s reading assignment and, when assigning collaborative writing assignments, pairing up two students who are exceedingly different from each other. Although these three pedagogical methods are far from foolproof, they have generally proven effective.