Carnegie Mellon University
June 21, 2023

Organic Path Led Graul to Teaching a Generation of Scientists

By Kirsten Heuring

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

After 30 years as part of Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Chemistry, Susan Graul retired at the end of 2022.

"I'll miss interacting with the students," Graul said. "They really made the job what it was with their enthusiasm, their curiosity and even sometimes the troubles they would experience."

Graul started at Carnegie Mellon in September 1992 as a tenure track faculty member with research focused on gas phase chemistry ions. In 2000, she switched to teaching track.

"I really enjoyed teaching lab courses, and I wanted to get into that a little bit more," Graul said. "I made the request to switch, and the department kindly agreed to do that."

Over the years, Graul consistently taught Chemistry Tech II, Laboratory II: Organic Synthesis and Analysis and Laboratory III: Molecular Design and Synthesis. In 2015, she received a Julius Ashkin Teaching Award for her dedication.

"I was pleasantly surprised and touched that the students supported me," Graul said. "It felt like a vindication of the efforts that I put in."

Graul left a significant impact on Molecular Design and Synthesis, a course specifically for chemistry majors. She allowed each student to pick one chemistry synthesis project from five options at the start of the semester. Students spent the rest of the semester focusing on individual projects and teaching fellow students about them.

She used that class as a way to give teaching assistants a greater role as part of coursework. With multiple projects happening simultaneously, TAs would focus on specific projects. Graul used this as an opportunity to make students as passionate about teaching as she is.

Bruce Armitage, head of the chemistry department, spoke about Graul's legacy that includes having anchored organic chemistry laboratory courses for more than 15 years.

"A generation's-worth of chemistry and biology majors benefited from her knowledge of organic chemistry, her thoughtful approach to teaching and her commitment to lab safety," Armitage said. "The department will miss her deeply, but we wish her all the best in her retirement."

Graul plans on using her retirement to travel. She has started bike touring with her husband, and they plan to travel the United States and Europe.

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