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Chemistry Professor Honored
for Making Sure It Isn’t the Same Old Thing
Patrick Wegner
The software program designed by Wenger allows the teacher to see how long it takes for a student to answer the questions and how the student arrived at his/her answers - giving the teacher a way to customize the approach for each student.

Patrick Wegner develped a way for teachers to monitor students' progress

January 16. 2007 :: No. 110

Remember when some of the questions in high school chemistry class quizzes started to look alike, but if you memorized enough material in the book, you could give the answer?

Not with the software and online program developed by Patrick Wegner, emeritus professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Cal State Fullerton. Wegner will be honored Thursday by the Orange County Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) for his program.

The Orange County Section is one of 189 nationally of the more than 158,000-member ACS. Its Bennett Award recognizes individuals who make major contributions to chemistry, including in education and in fields integrally affected by chemistry.

Wegner’s program is in use in the Anaheim Union High School District, at Fullerton College, Coastline College and UC Irvine by about 6,000 students, with more to come. John Wiley Books has just purchased the program. The publishing firm offers a number of educational materials.

“The program, which is accessible to students and instructors online, uses variables to give each student accessing it a different question, and each question must be solved; there is no memorized answer. So, each student must do his or her homework, and each student must think it through,” Wegner explained.

“But, there is a second component to it that is just as valuable,” he said. “The materials devised for this take the students through detailed examples of chemical processes. It helps them understand what a line drawing of a molecule or a chemical reaction in a textbook really means.” 

An example he offers is the line drawing for sodium chloride [table salt], which makes it look like a solid molecule. But, in water, it is a sodium ion and a chloride ion. “Chemists need to visualize it properly. Chemistry has a set of skills you learn, a set of processes you must go through. This helps them to do both,” Wegner said.

To Richard Deming, a CSUF colleague of Wegner’s and the one who will make the introductions at the Bennett Award ceremony, there is another, to him, possibly even more valuable aspect to Wegner’s program: “The professor or teacher can see how well the student is doing, because it’s right there, the way the student answers when using this. We can see how long it took to answer the question, how the student solved it. That gives a good picture of how the student is doing and where he or she may have trouble. Then the teacher can customize an approach to help the student.”
Wegner, a Fullerton resident, earned his Ph.D. at UC Riverside and joined the Cal State Fullerton faculty in 1969. His award will be presented during a 7:45 p.m. ceremony Thursday at the DoubleTree Club Hotel at 7 Hutton Centre Drive in Santa Ana.

Media Contacts:

Patrick Wegner, Chemistry and Biochemistry, at 657-278-2672 or

Russ Hudson, Public Affairs, 657-278-4007 or

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