Andrew (Andy) Dicks

Andy DicksAndrew (Andy) Dicks studied towards a Chemistry B.Sc. at the University of Wales, Swansea between 1991 - 1994 and graduated with first class honours and the E.E. Ayling Prize for the highest final-year mark. He moved to the Chemistry Department, University of Durham to undertake a Ph.D. in the field of physical organic chemistry with Lyn Williams. During this time he researched the mechanism of anti-anginal drug action. Dr. Dicks joined the Chemistry Department in Toronto in 1997 as a postdoctoral research fellow and worked for three years under the supervision of Bob McClelland, where his research involved studying carcinogenic species and their mode of binding to DNA. He became a sessional lecturer in organic chemistry in 1999, teaching his first course at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus.

Dr. Dicks was hired as part of the St. George teaching-stream faculty in 2001 and immediately set about designing a suite of novel experiments for undergraduate organic laboratories. Some of these are focused in the area of green chemistry concerning use of water as a benign and renewable reaction solvent, or experiments in the absence of solvent. He has also authored experiments where students synthesize “real-world relevant” substances such as an anti-narcoleptic, a sunscreen analog, an anti-cancer drug and an expectorant found in cough medications. These experiments are intended to showcase why undergraduates should learn about organic chemistry whilst teaching essential practical techniques and skills. The procedures have primarily been designed by undergraduate students themselves and have lead to multiple publications in the Journal of Chemical Education, the world’s number one chemistry teaching journal.

Related to his interest in promoting science in high schools, Dr. Dicks acted as Director of the Ontario Chemistry Olympiad program between 2002 - 2006. This initiative involves preparation of provincial high school chemistry students for Canadian National Olympiad selection, with the best four students representing Canada at the annual 70-nation International Chemistry Olympiad. In 2006 the national team going to South Korea was composed of entirely Ontario students and earned one bronze, two silvers and one gold medal (the joint best Canadian performance ever at the International Chemistry Olympiad and the best Ontario results ever – including the first Ontario gold medal for 21 years). During these four years Ontario students achieved a total of four bronze medals, three silver medals and one gold medal. Since 2006 he has been heavily involved in coordination of the National Chemistry Olympiad program and was the head academic mentor for the 2007 Canadian Chemistry Olympiad team, at the International Chemistry Olympiad in Russia. At this event an Ontario student again won a gold medal (only Canada’s sixth in 23 years of competition).

Following promotion to senior lecturer in 2006, Dr. Dicks became the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies. In this position he raised funding for significant improvements to the Chemistry undergraduate program. Capital was used to set up a first-year “course Community” which was spawned a dramatic enrollment increase in Chemistry program students from one first-year course. Additionally, funds are currently being utilized to develop a suite of dynamic, exciting practical experiments for the large first-year life science general chemistry course (CHM 139H). Whilst teaching a range of undergraduate courses he has won several pedagogical awards including the University of Toronto Faculty of Arts & Science Outstanding Teaching Award in 2003, the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students-Students’ Administrative Council Teaching Award in 2004 and the University of Toronto Faculty of Arts & Science Student Union Rini Ghosh Excellence in Teaching Award in 2007. He has additionally won the University of Toronto Faculty of Arts and Science Dean’s Excellence Award seven times.