Next week, online early registration opens up to students at the University of Dallas. Students of all majors will visit their advisors to discuss their schedules for the coming semester. For some chemistry students, this discussion includes taking on the famously difficult organic chemistry course that was taught by chemistry professor Dr. William Hendrickson before he retired last spring.
However, students will continue to take this class with recent graduate of Michigan State University graduate, Dr. Johnathan Dannatt, who began teaching here this fall.
Dannatt received his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Michigan State University and a B.S. in Chemistry and Mathematics from Lyon College and had just finished his defense before taking on the role of assistant professor.
In an interview with The University News near the beginning of the semester, Dannatt described his motivation for teaching.
“I think it’s really important to connect with the next generation of scientists and get them into the positions where they can make [a] change,” said Dannatt. “I really feel like science is a great opportunity to make a positive impact on the future.”
Biochemistry major Catherine Hand is the organic chemistry I teaching assistant. She works under Dannatt and assists organic chemistry labs.
“I think [Dannatt] fits into the UD culture really well; he is passionate about teaching, he truly cares about how his students perform, and most importantly, he tries to encourage his students even when they don’t do as well as they would have liked to,” said Hand.
Though Dannatt recognizes that learning organic chemistry requires a great amount of work, Dannatt believes that anyone could learn organic chemistry.
“I think organic chemistry is a really great space to challenge critical thinking skills,” said Dannatt. “For example, when you come [to UD], you’ve taken English classes in high school and before, and maybe these are more difficult, but they’re still English classes … but when you take organic chemistry it’s almost like a completely new language mixed in with a science. It’s brand new to everyone all at the same time. That really opens a lot of space for learning to think about problems in a completely new way.”
Dannatt hopes to inhibit the fear that surrounds organic chemistry in order to aid his students.
On another note, Dannatt also shared an anecdote about his motivation for buying an organic chemistry for babies book for his son. He hoped one of two things would happen:
“One, he would fall in love with organic chemistry and become an organic chemist or two, put him to sleep immediately like it does some students and that would be great too,” Dannatt said.
Dannatt will continue to teach the course next spring. Hand had one last remark about the professor.
“Dr. Dannatt is really kind, quick to make jokes, loves memes … really, what else could you want in a professor?” Hand said, before adding that Dannatt is a Hufflepuff.