Department of Chemistry

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Marcy H. Towns

Professor Marcy H. TownsProfessor—Chemical Education
Phone: 765-496-1574
Office: WTHR 107E

For Professor Towns's individual Home Page click here.

There exists a rich literature regarding the content and pedagogy of laboratory, both in chemistry and in related disciplines such as physics. Currently we seek to characterize the diversity of faculty goals for the undergraduate chemistry laboratory, the array of strategies faculty implement in the name of those goals, and the assessments faculty utilize to measure the extent to which they meet those goals. Factors such as type and size of institution, size of program, the use of TAs, the chemistry discipline (organic versus physical chemistry), and the level of course (lower versus upper division) are being explored. We plan to develop one or more taxonomies to convey the findings of this research, such that faculty can use these taxonomies to characterize their current undergraduate laboratory environment, identify the target states they wish to move to, and the key intermediate states in between their initial and final conditions. In the future we will use this research to explore student goals for undergraduate chemistry laboratory as well.

An on-going research interest has been small-group learning, especially how it is constructed and implemented in an on-line environment. The field of computer supported collaborative learning is an emerging one, and we have contributed to the literature in this field through the “Physical Chemistry On-Line” project.


B.A., 1985, Linfield College; M.S., 1990, Purdue University; Ph.D., 1994, Purdue University


  • Society for College Science Teachers Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award, 2015
  • Fellow of the American Chemical Society, 2012
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2010
  • Purdue University Teaching Academy Fellow, 2009
  • Purdue University Learning Community Ambassadors Advocate Award, 2006

Selected Publications

  • Becker, N.;Towns, M., Students' understanding of mathematical expressions in physical chemistry contexts: An analysis using Sherin's symbolic forms . Chemistry Education Research and Practic 2012 , 13 , 209-220.
  • Towns, M. H.;Raker, J. R.;Becker, N.;Harle, M.;Sutcliffe, J., The biochemistry tetrahedron and the development of the taxonomy of biochemistry external representations (TOBER) . Chemistry Education Research and Practic 2012 , 13 , 296-306.
  • M.H. Towns, K. Kreke, and A. Fields, An Action Research Project: Student Perspectives on Small-Group Learning in Chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education 2000 , 77, 111-115.
More Publications

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