J. Daniel Gezelter, professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, is the 2020 recipient of the Father James L. Shilts, C.S.C./Doris and Gene Leonard Teaching Award. This award, given by the Notre Dame College of Science, recognizes excellence in teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The award is named in honor of Father James Shilts, C.S.C, who taught in the Department of Physics from 1961 to 1982. It was endowed by Eugene T. Leonard III in 1983 in memory of his parents Doris and Eugene Leonard.
Over his 21 years at Notre Dame, Gezelter has had a phenomenal impact on students throughout the College of Science and beyond, teaching a wide variety of large and small courses to both undergraduate and graduate students. Most significantly, he played a foundational role in the development and teaching of the new Science & Engineering Scholars program. This program empowers students interested in STEM majors to achieve their full academic potentials. Since chemistry, calculus, and physics are challenging subjects that form the basis of science and engineering disciplines, the S&E Scholars program provides support for these students through small class sections, study skills courses in numerical problem solving and critical thinking, mentorship opportunities, and community building. Across the board, the program has resulted in significant increases in course grades and decreases in drops relative to control groups.
Gezelter’s influence extends well beyond the classroom. From 2015-2019, he served as Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Gezelter has been heavily involved in mentoring undergraduate students in research, advising 18 undergraduate researchers, many of whom have gone on to PhD programs in chemistry and engineering. Gezelter has also served as a Kaneb Faculty Fellow sharing his experiences, strategies, insights, and techniques through Kaneb Center workshops, discussion groups, research, and individual consultation, and he has worked with Notre Dame’s Learning Management Guidance Council, helping to provide oversight for online tools such as Sakai. Lastly, Dan has spent 21 years as the faculty advisor to the Notre Dame Bagpipe Band, which provides further opportunities for him to teach and mentor both graduate and undergraduate students in a fun and supportive environment that deeply resonates with the Notre Dame community.
Whether in the classroom, the laboratory, or elsewhere, Professor Gezelter is a master teacher who is tremendously accessible and deeply concerned for his students.