The Department of Chemistry’s Dr. Chris Flinn has received the Chemical Institute of Canada’s Canadian Society for Chemistry Faculty Advisor Award.
The award is presented to a faculty advisor who has demonstrated exceptional performance working with students. Recipients can only be nominated by members of their student chapter. It was presented in June at the Canadian Chemistry Conference, which brings together more than 2,500 participants from government, industry and academia, though Dr. Flinn was unable to attend.
“I’m very happy to receive the award, but when you are just trying to do the best job you can, you don’t think you are doing anything special – though someone else might look at it differently,” he said.
“However, it’s a nice capstone to my career, and I believe that, like other awards chemistry faculty have received, it helps to show the chemistry department, and hence the Faculty of Science, in a positive light.”
Special joy in teaching
Dr. Flinn came to Memorial in 1984 from Nova Scotia. He spent several years as the senior science faculty advisor, something he says was good preparation for becoming deputy head of the department.
The administrative position allowed him to use his skills to contribute to the smooth functioning of the department and help students in a broader sense, not just chemistry majors. Dr. Flinn feels that being deputy head has made him a more effective advisor for students – adding to his special joy in teaching.
“Many students choose to do a degree in chemistry after taking one of his courses.”
Sorarya Moore is the student president of Memorial’s Chemistry Society, which is also the university’s Canadian Society of Canada student chapter. She co-wrote the nomination letter along with current and past members of the society.
“Each year Dr. Flinn advises and assists our student chapter in our fundraising, community outreach and conference participation activities,” it reads. “We are proud to have a large and very active student chemistry society at Memorial, which is in large part due to Dr. Flinn’s dedication to his role as mentor, supporter and advisor.”
Always there for students
The nomination letter details Dr. Flinn’s assistance in the organization of the department’s annual participation in Science Atlantic’s ChemCon, a student-focused chemistry conference hosted annually by one of the universities in Atlantic Canada.
“I love teaching and I love interacting with students,” he said.
“I have become a lot closer with our chemistry majors through my role as the Science Atlantic representative and travelling with them to the conference every year. In fact, last year the students gave me an award for my longevity in that position and for always being there for them.”
Dr. Flinn has also been the co-ordinator for the London International Youth Science Forum since 1991. The program provides funds for students to travel to England to participate in enrichment activities with other young scientists. He was made honorary vice-president in 2005 because of his long-time efforts in sending Memorial students to the forum.
‘Patient, sympathetic and supportive’
On top of his service, the students note that Dr. Flinn is a gifted and dedicated lecturer.
“He is a wildly popular instructor of general chemistry, analytical chemistry and physical chemistry,” reads the nomination letter. “Many students choose to do a degree in chemistry after taking one of his courses. As the academic advisor for the department he has always been patient, sympathetic and supportive.”
Dr. Flinn says students have come to know he is approachable and more than happy to help out.
“If someone is not the strongest student, sometimes it’s a matter of finding out what’s holding them back,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to sit and chat with them. It may be that they’re under a lot of stress, and they don’t have a lot of life experience to figure out how to handle things.”
With two months to go until his retirement, after 35 years of service, students are still dropping by his office, calling and emailing. Some just to say thank you.
“It’s going to be very strange in September when all of that stops,” he said.