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Matthew Sazinsky '99, winner of Pomona College's Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Matthew Sazinsky '99, winner of Pomona College's Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Distinguished Professor Award goes to Haverford Alumnus

Matthew Sazinsky '99 decided he wanted to be a professor in his sophomore year at Haverford. He credits his professors with influencing his interest in teaching. He remembers how Professor of Biology Jenni Punt and the late Seth Brody, Professor of Religion, always had an open door policy. "You could always talk to them about anything," said Sazinsky; "It makes [teaching] more enjoyable when students want to get to know you."

Now a chemistry professor at Pomona College, Sazinsky was awarded the 2010 Wig Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching, along with five other professors, at Commencement in May. Students in the junior and senior classes elect the award recipients and a committee of trustees, faculty and students confirm the election made by the classes. The Wig Award "recognizes exceptional teaching, concern for students and service to the College and the community."

Sazinksy, who teaches Biochemistry, Advanced Biochemistry, and Organic Chemistry, sometimes refers to Pomona as 'Haverford West.' "It has the same make up of engaging, fun people," he said. Much like Haverford, undergraduate students are deeply involved in Sazinsky's research. As researchers, they get to use X-ray crystallography and biochemical techniques to study the structure and function of proteins. When selecting him for the award, one of his students commented on the positive experience Sazinsky creates in his classroom: "His teaching style pushes students outside of the typical undergraduate expectations and forces them to explore the subject apart from a simple textbook. This challenge rewards them with a much deeper understanding of the material that would otherwise be impossible."

While he likes to have fun in the classroom, Sazinsky is serious about ensuring that his students receive the education they deserve, and he wants them to feel they can offer suggestions to improve his teaching. "I always say on the first day of class, 'If it’s not working, tell me I stink. This is your education. Don’t worry about my feelings.'"

The students of Pomona College have shown that they appreciate this kind of teaching style. "It always feels good to be acknowledged," Sazinsky added. "I know I’m lucky to be in this position."

--Kayla Hoskinson

The ramp from Magill Library with Ryan Gym and Sharpless Hall in the background.

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