Position: Career Instructor, Chemistry
At UO since: 2021
Song on repeat: Anything on the "90s on 9" or "Classic Country"
Coffee or tea: Iced coffee with cream and sugar. As they say in Boston, a “regular.”
Guilty pleasure: Any reality show and any kind of trivia, especially those with references to pop culture.
Quote: “I feel like we go through seasons of life where we don’t know where we’re supposed to be or what we’re supposed to do. And that’s okay. But we should always know that we belong somewhere.”
When Lindsay Hinkle earned her doctorate degree in inorganic chemistry in 2012, she had a choice to continue in a lab conducting research or become an instructor to help students better understand the difficult subject.
Having worked in research labs for almost a decade, she knew she wanted to help people so she decided on teaching. “Being in a research lab all day just doesn’t make my heart sing the same way teaching does,” she says.
Today, as an instructor at the Clark Honors College, Hinkle loves the energy that comes from watching her students gain an understanding of chemistry. Her classes include three that she introduced when she arrived at the college in 2021 – Symmetry; Pick your Poison; and Water: A Deep Dive.
For some students, chemistry can be difficult to grasp, so she offers a different approach when it comes to assignments, hoping to spark interest and understanding.
The Symmetry class focuses on the different symmetry elements found in patterns and how it can affect the function of molecules. Instead of learning every molecular symmetry group, she has structured her class to talk about the topic in a broad range of topics like film, fabrics, fashion, sports, music, and literature. She helps students find a way to apply symmetry to the topics they are passionate about.
“The biggest thing for me is that my students are still people,” she says. “Yes, you are a student in my class but there’s so much about you that I don't know. I want to get to know you so I can help support you in your journey as a college student.”
Hinkle grew up in Coppell, Texas, a city about 22 miles northwest of Dallas. She describes herself in her early years as the person who always led her friends in study groups. She often stepped into the role of teacher, showing them how to reach solutions. It was fun, as she says, helping them understand “how to work the problem through and then reverse engineer it. We could make more practice problems that way.”
After high school, she attended Austin College, where she earned her bachelor's degrees in chemistry and psychology. She then went to the University of Minnesota to earn her PhD in inorganic chemistry. She spent six years in Boston, where she taught at Harvard University and Stonehill College. In the summer of 2020, she moved to Oregon and joined the Honors College the following year.
She says in her classroom that it’s all about communication and understanding what drives a person. The moment when she sees her students “get it” is what motivates her to teach. Recently, some students asked how she automatically understood chemical structures. Years of experience, she told them, suggesting that they would get it the more they worked on it.
“Just a few weeks later, they were the ones saying: ‘Wait, Professor Hinkle, there’s a fourfold there,’” she says. “To me, that’s the fun part of teaching.”
Hinkle says she gets as much out of her students as they do from her. “I learn what’s cool and hip, and what’s not cool and not hip,” she says. “I even learned that ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ are not cool and hip to say.”
—By Saachi Poddar, Clark Honors College Communications
—Photo by Alex Rodriguez, Clark Honors College Communications