Iota Sigma Pi Gives 2020 Centennial Award to Dr. Sheila Smith of University of Michigan – Dearborn

Contributed by Anne K. Taylor




IOTA SIGMA PI, the National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry, has selected Dr. Sheila R. Smith, Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Sciences at the University of Michigan – Dearborn, to receive the Centennial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The award is given for excellence in teaching chemistry, biochemistry, or a chemistry-related field. She has been invited to participate in the organization’s Triennial Convention in 2021.

Dr. Smith is an outstanding teacher to her undergraduate students, but she is also known as a national leader in faculty development. As part of the leadership of IONiC (the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists), an NSF funded Community of Practice, she helps to lead faculty development workshops and uses classroom technology to improve teaching chemistry and biochemistry.  Her nominator describes her as “a master in using the primary research literature to teach basic concepts and increase student engagement.”

Within her department Dr. Smith has been active in developing courses, such as Bioinorganic Chemistry, and Biochemistry Capstone: Complex Systems in Biochemistry. In both courses, current topics are used to explore how complex systems function in biochemistry and biology, and all the reading materials are from the scientific literature. After years of being active in Women in STEM events at UMD, she taught Gender, Science & Engineering which explores the history of women in science and engineering, the current status of women in science and engineering, and feminist theory in research. This course is also based on primary literature.

Dr. Smith teaches first-year chemistry as well as more advanced courses, and her students are enthusiastic about her talents. A former student wrote, “She shared her tremendous passion for teaching, always had tons of methods to deliver a concept, and her office was always open to discuss anything, from coursework to life in general.”

Sheila Smith holds a BS in chemistry from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, and a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC. She did post-doctoral research at Amherst College and at Michigan State University before attaining her position at the University of Michigan–Dearborn in 2001.  UM-Dearborn, with its diverse student body of over 40% first generation students, has turned out to be a perfect fit for Smith, a first gen herself.

IOTA SIGMA PI is the National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry. Its major objectives are to promote interest in chemistry among women students, to foster mutual advancement in academic, business, and social life; and to stimulate personal accomplishment in chemical fields. IOTA SIGMA PI serves to promote the advancement of women in chemistry by granting recognition to women who have demonstrated superior scholastic achievement and high professional competence by election into IOTA SIGMA PI.


contact: Anne K. Taylor, PhD
telephone: 707-774-6586