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Posted on Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 3:02 p.m.

University of Michigan chemistry professor wins $275,000 award for teaching

By Kellie Woodhouse

University of Michigan organic chemistry professor Brian Coppola will have some extra spending money with the start of the new year.

Coppola was recently awarded a $275,000 award for outstanding teaching.

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U-M professor Brian Coppola gives a lecture before an audience at Baylor University.

Coppola will receive $250,000 of the award and his unit, U-M's College of Literature, Science and Arts department of chemistry, will receive $25,000.

The award is the single-largest monetary reward for teaching and is offered by Baylor University, a Christian college in Texas. Called the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, the merit is awarded once every two years.

“A significance to this recognition is clearly related to the honoring of the act of classroom teaching, the thing that we embrace,” Coppola said in a finalist lecture he gave at Baylor in November.

Coppola also serves as the co-chair of the chemistry department and associate director for the University of Michigan-Peking University Joint Institute, in Beijing, China. According to the recently released U-M salary report, Coppola made $139,550 last year.

Watch Coppola's lecture, titled The Liberal Art of Chemistry: Stories about Human Nature, here.

Check out Coppola's 4.1 out of 5 rating on

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

I think that it is great that a non football or basketball "professor" gets a modest award. Compared to a football "professor" getting a large bonus after winning a bowl game, after already receiving millions of dollars in base salary, this incentive certainly looks modest---but is a good idea. I like to see the academic AND athletic folks share in the glory and the money if they have a successful "season".

Christian Casper

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

I met Brian during grad school at U-M. I didn't stay in chemistry, but I did stay in teaching, and his influence was a big part of that. He's certainly one of the great teachers in American higher education.

Rob Pollard

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 3:39 a.m.

I saw him speak two years ago in Dearborn at a library conference. He is impressive. I have no interest in org chemistry, but he was there to speak about teaching in general. He has a unique background if a recall - he was an art student as well as doing chem in undergrad or grad school. He made one point about discussing as an art student that he had to draw a foot - there's no one way to do it. He's brought that concept to his teaching, and that's uncomfortable for many chem students who are used to there being only one way to approach a problem. You can read a bit more in a one page summary of his talk here, <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;context=loexquarterly</a> (ah, Google searches are nice!) Beyond that quick summary, there's lot of videos of his lectures and if anyone is interested in one of the best university teachers around, I'd check him out.

Jeff Gaynor

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

Thanks, Rob. The article summary you link to will be of interest to those interested in teaching and learning.


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 3:30 a.m.

How cool is that!


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 12:55 a.m.

Rate My Professor? Is this a joke or journalism? Who is Brian Coppola? What is his academic background? What does he teach and what have been his contributions to teaching, research, and the university more generally? What are his other accomplishments? What does this award provide? How are faculty nominated and selected? Who are the past winners? Where is the reporting?

Elaine F. Owsley

Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

Have you actually read the story? Most of what you seem to have missed is contained in it.


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 2:26 a.m.

Ms. Woodhouse has been busy reporting on the high salaries required by UM Deans and Administrators for the high maintenance supervision needed by employees like Professor Coppola. Hopefully, more detail will follow.

Kai Petainen

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 10:52 p.m.

wow. that's amazing! congratulations!


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 10:50 p.m.

&quot;...the merit is awarded once every two years.&quot; The demise of the English language. Do you guys have editors?


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 10:18 p.m.

His Award is more than Brady Joke got for winning a Major Bowl Game? I thought that only football coaches made that kind of money?


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.

Congratulations for a job well done. A public institution with exceptional teaching talent,Go Blue!


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

I'm happy to hear of a professor who teaches so well and takes his teaching responsibilities seriously. Maybe he even had an 8AM class and/or taught on Fridays too. Kudos to this professor.

John of Saline

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 10 p.m.

Mine was 8am, MWF.


Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

Professor Coppola is also co-founder of the IDEA Institute, an inter-disciplinary unit on campus that works to improve the teaching of science at many different levels, from K-12 to post-grad. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

John Gotts

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

Chemistry 210 is brutal. I made the mistake of taking it my first semester. My cumulative GPA never recovered. Chemistry 210 was the first in a series of classes at U of M that taught me to do what I love, that is to say programming. I have been programming since elementary school and continue to do so at age 36. I learned that I should not be doing any type of engineering that is not software engineering, including electrical, civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering. Almost without exception I got excellent grades in my software classes and terrible grades in my electrical, civil, chemical, and mechanical engineering classes (and their prerequisites that bore no application to software). Luckily there are other types of people that excel in these fields and I'm perfectly willing to write software for them.


Sat, Jan 14, 2012 : 3:32 a.m.

That is hilariously honest.

John of Saline

Fri, Jan 13, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

Cool. He rocks. Had him for organic chemistry way back when.