Carnegie Mellon University
May 04, 2020

Gizelle Sherwood Receives Julius Ashkin Teaching Award

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS

Assistant Teaching Professor of Chemistry Gizelle Sherwood received the Mellon College of Science’s 2020 Julius Ashkin Teaching Award for her devotion and effectiveness in teaching.

Sherwood is an energetic, creative and enthusiastic teacher who has positively influenced the lives of students both in and outside of the classroom.

Her impact is most apparent in the countless ways she makes herself available to students. Over the years, numerous students have admiringly recounted stories about how she answers Piazza messages within 15 minutes, no matter the hour; has held a video call until 2 a.m. to review material; or stayed in her office until 11 p.m. to help a student grasp a new concept. She also has an open-door policy for her office where students from all her classes come to work, study, and seek advice or a listening ear whenever they need it. 

Though Sherwood’s courses have a reputation for being challenging, she constantly empowers her students to succeed. Students frequently credit her meticulous notes, engaging lectures and real-world example problems for helping them digest the difficult material. 

“Gizelle represents the philosophy of our department, which is to show a genuine concern for students’ success while challenging them appropriately and effectively,” wrote Chemistry Associate Teaching Professor Lenny Vuocolo in nominating her. 

When students have a question, Sherwood has a knack for pushing them to draw upon their existing knowledge rather than providing an answer outright, something many students later thank her for. Her supportive yet tough nature emboldens students’ inquisitive minds and helps them become skilled, analytical scholars and researchers.  

“My graduate student advisor was impressed that the techniques she believed she needed to teach me, I was already an expert in thanks to [Dr. Sherwood’s class],” wrote Michelle Bai, a chemical engineering major who leveraged her experiences in Sherwood’s Lab 1 course to obtain an internship at Penn State University.

Within the Chemistry Department, Sherwood is also an invaluable asset in strengthening the undergraduate curriculum and in developing new courses that pull students in from across the university.

Along with Chemistry Assistant Teaching Professor Gloria Silva, Sherwood developed the lab course The Design and Making of Skin and Hair Products, a popular cosmetic chemistry course that has attracted students from five of CMU’s seven schools and colleges. 

Leading up to the rollout of the MCS Core Education in 2015, she also developed a chemistry lab course designed specifically for biological sciences majors. Nominator Becki Campanaro, assistant teaching professor of biological sciences, applauded Sherwood’s efforts on this course, noting the countless hours spent developing, assessing and redesigning the course to effectively meet the needs of students by teaching chemical content through the lens of biology.

Beyond teaching, Sherwood dedicates her time to several educational outreach efforts. She regularly offers workshops on macromolecules and water quality at the Gelfand Center, co-teaches a forensics lab to students in the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Sciences and runs a program for Boy Scouts to earn their chemistry merit badge. 

Sherwood also uses her personal experiences to mentor and support young women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.

“Dr. Sherwood is a seemingly limitless source of creativity whether related to a teaching strategy in an existing course, new experiments in the lab, outreach programming or development and implementation of entirely new courses,” wrote nominator Karen Stump, director of undergraduate studies and laboratories.   

“She is an outstanding candidate for this honor.”