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Chemistry Educator and Tectonophysics Researcher Join Science College

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Two new faculty members joined Cal State Fullerton’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics this academic year. Julia Y.K. Chan explores ways to improve the teaching and learning of chemistry to increase the number of college students in STEM disciplines and boost student achievement. Kathryn Metcalf studies tectonophysics — the physics of plate tectonics as the Earth’s surface moves as a result of earthquakes. She combines the disciplines of geology and physics to examine older rocks and to look below the surface of the Earth to paint a picture of what the world looked like millions of years ago.

Julia Chan

Julia Y.K. Chan
Assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry
Ph.D. in chemistry-chemistry education, M.S. in chemistry-organic chemistry, postdoctoral research in chemistry education, University of New Hampshire
B.S. in chemistry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Previously taught at the University of Tampa

Research interests: My area of study is chemistry education research, which involves understanding and improving teaching and learning in chemistry through a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. The foundational understanding in chemistry is important because it is the central science that connects all other fields of science. I’m interested in enhancing students’ attitudes, self-concept and motivation in gateway college-level chemistry courses. I’m also interested in the development and assessment of informational workshops to promote growth mindsets, and effective studying and learning strategies in and outside of the classroom.

Most impactful academic experience as an undergraduate: I had the opportunity to teach piano students and tutor high school students in chemistry and mathematics. These experiences solidified my interest in pursuing a field in teaching and research.

Something you’d like others to know about you: I enjoy high-intensity interval training workouts, Bikram’s hot yoga, Pilates, hiking, baking, playing the piano and violin, traveling and shopping.

athryn Metcalf

Kathryn Metcalf
Assistant professor of geological sciences
M.S. and Ph.D. in geosciences, University of Arizona
B.S. in geological sciences-geophysics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Previously taught at the State University of New York at Oneonta

Research interests: I’m fascinated by topography and how mountains formed. In college, I completed a senior research project on the thickness of the crust beneath the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a master’s student, I studied surface and deep structure faults in northern Chile, and for my doctorate, I traveled to Tibet to study the closure of the ocean between India and Asia, which eventually formed the Himalayas. My research focuses on using geophysics, which is physics applied to geology. Earthquakes are caused by shifts in the Earth as the plates of the crust pull away, grind together or slide past each other. Through my research, I monitor the Earth’s surface using satellite images and GPS and look at what is happening below by scanning through the surface — like a CT-scan. I also create maps, measure the tilting of rocks, and analyze rock fragments to see how the surface of the Earth has moved and changed over time. 

Most impactful academic experience as an undergraduate: As a freshman, I took a class about the geology of eastern California. I learned to see the landscape in a whole new way as we pieced together the history recorded in the rocks — and I have loved doing fieldwork ever since.

Something you’d like others to know about you: I grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, but love the mountains in the West. Even though I study earthquakes, I don’t know what it feels like to be in one! 

Favorite Movie:
“The Princess Bride”