Dr. Dolores C. Aquino’s love for chemistry began early, from playing with a chemistry set as a child to becoming the star chemistry student in high school. Her life experiences in science education have helped her to develop a curriculum for her own students that blend both instruction and application. For this, the American Chemical Society – Greater Houston Section (ACS-GHS) has named Dr. Aquino Outstanding Chemistry Teacher at a Two Year College.
“I firmly believe that students must be actively engaged in order to learn,” said Dr. Aquino, chemistry professor with San Jacinto College. “I am honored by students allowing me to be a positive force toward a changed and better life for them in their chosen career.”
Dr. Aquino’s teaching career began approximately 25 years ago, after she received her doctorate from The Ohio State University. She previously obtained her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology and worked as a research chemist within the oil and gas industry. She has been a member of the American Chemical Society for more than 30 years and served on many committees including the task force that wrote the ACS Guidelines for Chemistry in Two-Year Colleges. She is also an active member and committee chair with the Texas Community College Teachers Association.
Dr. Aquino designs her curriculum to incorporate experiences outside of the classroom environment with regular visits to the chemistry exhibit at Houston Museum of Natural Science. She also aligns her courses to the College’s Quality Enhancement Plan that aims to improve the reading abilities of college students, and designs Honors student projects to validate new general chemistry laboratory procedures.
This past summer, she was instrumental in online/hybrid course development. Many of her students have been accepted as student scholars in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) in STEM program and the Texas STEM Challenge Scholarship (TSTEM) program. She also serves as a faculty mentor to both students and adjunct chemistry faculty, and has coordinated student activities for the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars.
She guided former student Fernando Zuniga through his first college-level chemistry course. Zuniga came to San Jacinto College to find his career path and spent his first year in college prep courses.
“My first chemistry professor, Dr. Dolores Aquino, really guided me because I had forgotten everything I learned in high school chemistry,” said Zuniga. After advancing into science and math courses, Zuniga received the LSAMP and TSTEM scholarships and graduated in May with a Rice University internship and admission into the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering.
“I hope that by teaching chemistry it opens student’s eyes to what is going on around us,” said Dr. Aquino. “I feel that having some scientific training helps a person to look at things a bit differently. I know that many I teach won’t ever pursue careers in chemistry, but at least they’ll have some form of appreciation.”
The ACS Outstanding Chemistry Teacher at a Two Year College Award is to recognize, encourage, and stimulate outstanding teachers of chemistry at a community college in the American Chemical Society – Greater Houston Section. Selection is based on the nominee’s teaching, including unusually effective methods of presentation, a professor’s ability to challenge and inspire students, extra curricular work in chemistry, keeping up-to-date in the field, and evidence of leadership and/or active involvement within the profession.
The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals, and scientific conferences.
“Dr. Aquino is an outstanding professor who serves as a wonderful mentor to our students,” said Dr. Rachel Garcia, department chair of physical science at San Jacinto College. “She has impacted many lives with her approach to chemistry instruction. I consider her not only a mentor to others, but to myself as well. She exemplifies the highest standards of chemistry education among community colleges.”