Submitted by Rui Tang, PhD, Chemical Science and Technology Award coordinator.
I am pleased to announce the winner of the 2023 American Chemical Society, St. Louis Section, Chemical Science and Technology Award, Daria Sokic-Lazic, MS. She is currently an Instructor of Chemistry at the Department of Chemistry, Saint Louis University. Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic universities. Founded in 1818, SLU is recognized for world-class academics, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service.
Ms. Sokic-Lazic joined the Department of Chemistry as a faculty member at St. Louis University back in 2009. Starting from the general chemistry lab coordinator, Daria has been managing 30 lab sections with over 700 freshmen students, 10-12 graduate teaching assistants, and 8-10 undergraduate preparatory assistants every fall semester. All this while teaching a freshman course of more than 100 students and developing innovative teaching techniques and materials. Her workload, work ethic, and drive toward making the teaching and learning experience for graduate and undergraduate students exceptional cannot be overstated.
Ms. Sokic-Lazic consistently strives to implement the highest pedagogical practices in her labs and courses. She is constantly working on improving her labs, bringing in new technologies, new procedures, and better implementations of teaching materials. She invests a vast amount of time in teaching materials. A significantly higher time allocation goes into training and educating graduate students on teaching practices. Training graduate students from a wide range of backgrounds on their fundamental chemistry knowledge, technical skills, grading skills, adequate teaching, and overall time management takes a lot of work. Not only does she train graduate students but also undergraduate students. She trains undergraduate students on chemical preparation techniques, equipment setup, and troubleshooting for the teaching labs. Daria supports graduate and undergraduate students’ education and professional growth with empathy and compassion. She is honest, fair, straightforward, and kind in her student interactions.
Even with her plate full, Ms. Sokic-Lazic always initiated innovative teaching materials for her classrooms. Since 2018, Daria has been working with other faculty members at the Department of Chemistry, St. Louis University, on obtaining educational grant proposals through the KEEN Foundation. Their project has been focused on developing and implementing modules in large freshman-level chemistry courses that would bring value, connection, and curiosity to our students. Through this project, they developed 9 modules that span basic chemistry, principals of chemistry, and general chemistry I & II. The innovative modules affect over 1000 students each year. Daria’s creativity, thoroughness, and accountability were highly displayed during this work. She paid attention to every detail and thought-out every scenario in the grant writing process, module development, and implementation phases. This funded project was highly successful and resulted in web-based publications and was presented at national STEM teaching conferences. Currently, the project is in the data collection phase and will have another resulting manuscript where Ms. Sokic-Lazic was the initiator and propeller of this team.
Ms. Sokic-Lazic is ambitious, curious, honest, fair, and caring. She truly cares that all students under her supervision and in her courses succeed. She goes out of her way to see them do well. She works with students one-on-one to help them improve their skills and knowledge. Ms. Sokic-Lazic’s is a vital faculty in the chemistry department and is the backbone of the general chemistry course sequence at the Department of Chemistry, St. Louis University. Her efforts, expertise, drive, dedication, and impact on the success of teaching and educational research are paralleled by very few.