Heather Pinkett and Alessandro F. Rotta Loria have been named the 2022 recipients of The Alumnae of Northwestern University’s Award for Curriculum Innovation.
The award seeks to support faculty members offering undergraduates innovations that enhance their curriculum through new courses, methods of instruction and new components to existing classes.
The recognition comes with $12,500 in award funding to be split between innovation development ($7,000), stipend ($5,000) and the faculty member’s home department ($500).
Pinkett will use the award to work with students to develop a national resource to increase curriculum inclusivity and address representation in STEM, and Rotta Loria will create massive real-world datasets that allow students to realize virtual geothermal energy projects with potential to impact the city.
Expanding representation in science lectures
Heather Pinkett, the Irving M. Klotz Research Professor and associate professor of molecular biosciences at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will create modules with students that highlight the professional stories of scientists with diverse backgrounds, particularly emphasizing scientists currently working in the field.
Pinkett’s work will build on an existing biochemistry class, giving students additional opportunities to teach and learn from their classmates as well as implement changes to future curricula.
The project, called the Northwestern University Teach One Reach One project, or NU-TORO for short, promotes inclusion in STEM curriculum and gives students agency to reform STEM curriculum alongside their professor. By implementing a resource that highlights new connections between textbooks and contemporary research that traditional coursework may not allow, NU-TORO offers students different perspectives on the feasibility of careers in STEM.
Pinkett also will launch the NU-TORO website nationwide as a template for other educators to increase their own curriculum inclusivity, providing references and other resources.
The Pinkett lab looks at the way nutrients, antibiotics and chemotherapeutics are transported into and out of the cell, with an interest in ABC transporters, proteins that use ATP hydrolysis to move substrates across cell membranes.
Pinkett is an expert in ABC transporters, transcriptional regulation and host-pathogen interactions, and is also a member of the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute.
Using data and sustainable engineering to innovate cities
Alessandro F. Rotta Loria is an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering. Rotta Loria will deploy a wireless temperature sensing network in underground environments across the Chicago Loop district that will become a living laboratory for his class “Energy Geostructures and Geosystems” (EGG – CIV_ENV_353).
This network will provide a large set of real-world data that students in the EGG course will use to design innovative projects that can harvest renewable geothermal energy and waste thermal energy through the subsurface to meet buildings’ heating, cooling and hot water needs. These projects will be developed virtually but could be realizable immediately, with significant implications for the decarbonization of cities and the building sector at large. In support of this undertaking, Rotta Loria will provide students with cross-disciplinary competence in mechanics, energy and data science.
Rotta Loria’s research is at the intersection of geomechanics, energy and environmental sustainability. His goal is to understand the properties and behavior of soils, rocks, concrete and system thereof in the context of geological energy production and storage.