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“Remember what it was like not to know,” said Dr. Kelley Young, co-author of Chemical Principles: The Quest for Insight. That’s Dr. Young’s mantra, and it is one that has long fueled her teaching expertise. Dr. Young clearly remembers her struggles as a student in both undergraduate and graduate school, and it has allowed her to better empathize with her students today.
It’s Dr. Young’s teaching experience and expertise that uniquely positions her as an ideal candidate to author a textbook. Joining the author team for the eighth edition of Chemical Principles has allowed Dr. Young to now reach students around the world. Macmillan Learning’s mission is to inspire what’s possible for every learner and we recognize that our success is in large part due to our outstanding authors–many of whom, like Dr. Young, take such pride in, and prioritize, their teaching.
Dr. Young loved growing up in a rural part of the thumb of Michigan. It was quiet and familiar; not many people left the area after high school. Dr. Young, like others, wanted to stay close to her friends and family. “I was drawn to Adrian College for that reason,” she said, “and also because I wanted to continue playing soccer.”
Athletics drew Dr. Young to Adrian College. “I was an avid athlete, and I admit to partially choosing where to continue my education because of that and less because of the school’s science prowess,” she joked. Nevertheless, Adrian College gave Dr. Young the freedom to discover and further develop her interests in the natural sciences, all while she continued with her love of soccer.
“I’m a big proponent of athletics as a creative outlet beyond the classroom,” Dr. Young said. Dr. Young believes that her time as a student-athlete taught her many of the skills that helped her succeed later in graduate school and now as a teaching professor at the University of Notre Dame. “As a STEM student, time was always valuable,” she said. “I learned the importance of time management, balance, and also how to deal with failure.” While playing soccer, Dr. Young learned that failure is going to happen; it was going to happen in graduate school, too. “We learn more from our failures than from success,” Dr. Young said.
One of the best ways for a person to deal with failure is to surround themself with a genuine support network. “Adrian College was small, so I got to know my professors really well,” Dr. Young said. Her professors helped steer Dr. Young toward opportunities that allowed her to continue her love of chemistry beyond the classroom. “I didn’t really know what I had planned to do with a chemistry degree, or really what research was,” Dr. Young said, “and I was encouraged to apply for an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates), which made me realize how much I enjoyed conducting research.”
No one in Dr. Young’s family had gone to graduate school, but her desire to continue doing research was the motivation she needed to be the first. “My professors were really supportive and helped me find programs that aligned with my interests,” she said. Dr. Young was interested in renewable energy. She was accepted at Michigan State, where she was able to join a lab and work on semiconductor research projects.
After completing her Ph.D. in 2015, Dr. Young remained at Michigan State for one year as a Lecturer before joining Hope College as a Visiting Assistant Professor. In 2016, Dr. Young joined the Chemistry Department at Notre Dame, where she has been since and was recently promoted from Assistant to Associate Teaching Professor.
“Notre Dame is a special and privileged place to be,” Dr. Young said. “In addition to our research faculty, who are top-notch educators in their own right, we also have dedicated teaching faculty such as myself.” Dr. Young believes that it’s really valuable for the students, especially in first-year courses, to know that they have instructors who are fully committed to their success. “I remember as an undergraduate student how important it was to know that I had instructors who cared about me as a young adult away from home for the first time,” Dr. Young said. “Now I get to be that person for my students.”
Dr. Young didn’t always know that teaching was her calling. “As a graduate student,” she recalled, “I was a teaching assistant for the first time, and I was awful.” Nevertheless, that experience of struggle and failure was a great learning experience and gave Dr. Young the bug to keep teaching. Now she’s considered an expert in her field: teaching. In 2021, Dr. Young took on the role of Boler Family Director of the Mary E. Galvin Science & Engineering Scholars Program, and in 2022 she was awarded the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
As a lifelong learner, Dr. Young has continued to seek out new opportunities to improve her teaching. “Many doctorate programs don’t require students to serve as a teaching assistant more than once or twice,” she said, “but I took every opportunity available.” Dr. Young’s teaching experience is also varied, which has taught her what works well and what doesn’t in the classroom. While at Hope College, she gained experience teaching at a PUI (primarily undergraduate institution) with a great chemistry program. Dr. Young is now a frequent visitor of the Teaching Center on campus at the University of Notre Dame, which offers regular trainings in pedagogy.
Many of the students in Dr. Young’s courses are not majors in chemistry, and her expertise in teaching and pedagogy allows her to meet her students where they are in their preparedness. “It’s one of my favorite things about teaching,” she said. “I enjoy seeing the struggle–in a good way.” Dr. Young loves seeing her students face and overcome the challenge of not knowing something and then finally having that “Aha!” moment. “To see a student figure something out on their own,” she said, “that helps them build confidence and sets them up for success after they leave my class.”
Dr. Young’s teaching not only received the praise of her students and colleagues, but it also got the attention of Macmillan Learning. “I had been using their book, Chemical Principles, in my courses,” she said, “so I was used to reps visiting often.” After one visit and class observation, the rep approached Dr. Young and asked if she would join him for lunch. “He asked me if I would be interested in writing,” Dr. Young said. “I remember feeling very thankful and excited to contribute.”
The editing process began just after Dr. Young gave birth to her second child and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Dr. Young said. “Everything felt so precarious.” Thankfully, Dr. Young felt well supported by the rest of her author team. “Loretta Jones and Peter Atkins were the veterans of the group,” she said, “and I remember using Peter’s book when I was a student.” All five authors of the eighth edition worked meticulously together, each reviewing every sentence of the book. “I learned so much from Loretta, Peter, and Leroy, and about how their previous editions were so successful,” Dr. Young said.
With the addition of Dr. Young and Dr. James Patterson to the author team, the eighth edition of Chemical Principles received some new updates. “It was already and always an excellent book,” Dr. Young said, “but we were eager to make it a little more conversational for students who didn’t have much background in chemistry or the sciences.” The new edition also has some new structuring and ordering, as well as more features of women and people of color who have made discoveries in the field of chemistry.
When the writing and editing process concluded about three years later, Dr. Young gave birth to her third child. “The book is book-ended with two of my children,” she joked. When Dr. Young is not busy teaching or writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and all three children. She resides in southwest Michigan, where she enjoys spending time outside hiking, camping, hunting, and gardening.
Kelley Young is an associate teaching professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Adrian College and earned her Ph.D from Michigan State University where she investigated the fabrication and electrochemical characterization of thin-film semiconductors for solar water oxidation. Dr. Young has been teaching general chemistry and physical chemistry laboratory since 2015 and is currently the Director of the Mary E. Galvin Science and Engineering Scholars, a program aimed at building community and increasing retention in STEM disciplines.