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Chemistry professor Michael Nichols wins Culicchia Award

April 14th, 2011

Michael Nichols, a professor in the chemistry department, has been awarded this year’s Lucrezia Culicchia Award. This award is presented to faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences who have excelled and made distinct differences in the teaching climate here at John Carroll.

The committee of past faculty recipients and student representatives read through the dossiers of nominated faculty and chose Nichols. Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Jeanne Colleran said Nichols was chosen for this award because of “his exemplary work as a dedicated teacher in the chemistry department.”

Nichols is finishing up his 17th year of teaching at JCU this year. He typically teaches organic chemistry lectures and laboratory courses but occasionally teaches general chemistry and upper level courses. During the fall semester 2008, he taught an advanced organic spectroscopy course that was supported by a JCU Course Development Fellowship.

Nichols chose teaching as his career because of his ability to simplify complex materials and his patience towards students and teaching in general. He interviewed and was offered a job at Carroll after previously working at larger universities like Kansas State University and Ohio University. He took the job here because he admired the environment of small campuses.

“I liked the small college atmosphere. The Master’s program allows me to continue to do research and I liked that JCU was closer to where I grew up in western Pennsylvania. I was also becoming more familiar with Jesuit education after each interview and was comfortable with that environment.”

Nichols has also worked with nearly 60 undergraduate research students during his time here at JCU and has enjoyed watching his students get involved in projects where they don’t know what to expect. His favorite part about teaching is his ability to organize course material and try to put it in a logical and coherent manner. This way his students can see that they can understand even the most complex topics.

Colleran said, “The committee was impressed with his dedication to making sure all his students understood the class material – especially in organic chemistry. He has an exceptional ability to make difficult material accessible.”

Nichols was pleasantly surprised when he received this award.

“I was aware that I had been nominated for this award in the past but did not expect to receive it. It came as a surprise.”

Colleran and the chemistry department acknowledged Nichols for his excellence in providing an understanding and commitment to his students.

“It’s always nice to be recognized by your peers and given the number of excellent teachers in the chemistry department and the University as a whole, receiving the Culicchia Award is a great honor and quite humbling,” Nichols said.

Nichols always likes to mix it up when it comes to his teaching. He uses different types of technology in his lectures. He described his type of lecture style as “old school” with a touch of modern technology within. “I also mix in some fairly dry and sarcastic humor to break up the monotony,” he said.

After winning the award, Nichols will show his appreciation by simply continuing to do his job the way he has been for the past 17 years here.

According to Colleran, he will be recognized at a faculty meeting in the fall, where he will receive an honorarium. His name will be inscribed on the plaque hanging outside the dean’s office.

Anyone interested in learning more about Michael Nichols can view his lectures at bluestream.jcu.edu, where he has recorded his classroom lectures over the past couple years.