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Teaching Faculty Spotlight: Carine Nemr

Carine Nemr photoCarine Nemr is an Assistant Professor of Instruction who just joined our teaching team. She earned her PhD at the University of Toronto, where she worked in the Kelley Lab on novel technologies that allowed bacterial identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing. Most recently, she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Harvey Mudd College.

How did you get into teaching Chemistry?

After becoming a general chemistry laboratory teaching assistant during my undergraduate studies, I discovered how much joy teaching could bring. During graduate school, I gravitated toward pedagogical roles during any spare time I could find, from being a teaching assistant for undergraduate chemistry courses, to teaching high school chemistry, to training graduate teaching assistants, to working on undergraduate curriculum development projects. Teaching felt so natural and energizing; I quickly realized that it was the path for me.

Your PhD in Analytical Chemistry was completed in Shana Kelley's lab at the University of Toronto. How has that experience shaped you?

My PhD was a seminal time for exploration, growth, reflection, and self-discovery. I got to investigate a variety of interdisciplinary projects in Shana's group since she encouraged creative freedom and supported my advancement as a researcher. I also got to collaborate with very knowledgeable and kind lab mates who were always ready to help me think through challenges and provide feedback on my work. I learned the value of having a great support system and not being scared to ask for help. My PhD shaped my patience and perseverance, and most importantly taught me that it's ok to fail, something I had struggled to accept until that point in my life. 

What is something about teaching that inspires you?

When my former students reach out to me months/years after I taught them and they share the amazing things they're pursuing and accomplishing in their lives academically and beyond, I feel very inspired. To think that I may have had even a smidgen of impact on their success motivates and uplifts me as an educator. I hope to continue this cycle of inspiration for many generations to come!

As a student or professor, which Chemistry class/professor inspired you most?

I had the pleasure of co-teaching and sitting in on the general chemistry lectures of a former colleague at Harvey Mudd College, Prof. Kathy Van Heuvelen. For a whole semester, I got to see the care and thought put into her lectures, her ease of content delivery, and her use of research-backed pedagogical approaches. I witnessed firsthand how active learning could be employed in a large lecture setting, something that seems a bit intimidating at first. It sprouted new ideas and allowed me to discover new teaching styles that I hope to employ and explore further at Northwestern.

What advice would you give to young chemists interested in academia?

Try new things and talk to new people. Stepping outside your comfort zone, as well as learning about other people's experiences will allow you to think in fresh ways, something critical for a career in academia. The people and situations you engage with will provide a richness to your life that may not be apparent at the moment but may be extremely beneficial down the road. I am very grateful for the connections I've made and the experiences I've had that have shaped me as an academic and as a person overall.

What is something you would like us to know about you that is not on your CV?

I really enjoy physical activity, whether it's practicing hot yoga in a candle-lit studio, exploring new roads by bike, hiking a mountain for the best views, or going for long walks in the city; bonus points for the times I get to experience those moments with friends and loved ones!