Alissa Horn spends a great deal of time preparing to teach her organic chemistry recitations and labs. She does this so her students have an opportunity to excel, and her dedication to teaching hasn’t gone unnoticed, as she was awarded a Citation for Excellence in Teaching Chemistry.

“I don’t necessarily care about getting the recognition, but I just want my students to learn,” Horn said. “I want my students to do well, and I want them to have a good experience in chemistry.”

Horn believes some students have a preconceived notion that they aren’t going to succeed in chemistry. They come to class thinking they’ll struggle, so Horn is trying to show them it doesn’t have to be hard.

“They kind of come in psyched out for chemistry,” she said. 

So, how does she challenge this notion?

She makes things personal.

Horn said that if one takes the time to get to know their students, it will be easier to connect with them on a personal level and help them learn to be successful.

“These students care and do want to learn,” Horn said. “And I enjoy getting to know each one of my students.”

She also conducts a two-hour review session before every exam, and she tries to ensure that all her students’ questions are answered before the test.

Dr. Jason Kautz, Coordinator for General Chemistry, said Horn’s ability to connect with students is a difference maker for them.

“Alissa doesn’t just show up because she has to. She wants to be there,” Kautz said. “She works with each student on an individual level, and it reflects in the feedback I receive on her. I greatly appreciate the work she puts forth, as do her students.”

Horn is a fifth-year doctoral student from Norfolk, Nebraska, performing research in synthetic organic chemistry.  Her investigations, conducted in the lab of Dr. Pat Dussault, are focused on new chemistries for introduction of the important ether functional group based upon reactions of organic peroxides.

Horn hopes to defend her dissertation sometime next year, and she would like to work with an industrial or pharmaceutical company once she graduates.