:: Spotlight: Sara Sutcliffe

Photo of Dr. Sara Sutcliffe
Dr. Sara Sutcliffe teaches
chemistry courses for UEX
and The University of Texas
at Austin.

Posted: January 10, 2013

Instructor Sees Understanding of Basic Chemistry as Key to Later Success

Dr. Sara Sutcliffe has been a self-professed “chemistry and science geek” for as long as she can remember. Growing up in England, she was encouraged by her parents to be curious about the world around her. Even without a real beginner’s chemistry set, Dr. Sutcliffe conducted experiments on her own as a child, mixing up all sorts of substances just to see what would happen and hiding the results behind the curtains for her mother to find later.

As an undergraduate student at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, Dr. Sutcliffe was introduced to The University of Texas at Austin as part of a student exchange program. She later returned to the university to complete her PhD in Chemistry and to teach. Her areas of interest are broad, including materials science, semiconductors, analytical and inorganic chemistry, history of chemistry (and chemists), astronomy and chemical physics.

Dr. Sutcliffe teaches CH 302 - Principles of Chemistry II for University Extension (UEX). She explains the importance of a good understanding of basic principles of chemistry by saying, “general chemistry is a critical step towards organic chemistry and higher levels of study, but it is also relevant in many other subject areas. The skills you develop to succeed in chemistry can help in learning new material in many other areas.”

Students leave Dr. Sutcliffe’s classes with an understanding that chemistry is important in their daily lives, too. She explains, “I especially like to communicate the basics of science to wider audiences because I believe you should understand what the food you eat, clothes you wear, water you drink, etc. is made of. I like to link chemistry to other areas of science and daily life, and I encourage others to do so, too.”

Dr. Sutcliffe’s skill at explaining chemistry principles is evident by the remarks of her former students. “Many times, material that was inscrutable using just the textbook became easy to understand after an explanation by Dr. Sutcliffe,” wrote one. “The course material was presented in a way that made it very understandable and interesting. Great class!” remarked another.

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