Lori Stepan Van Der Sluys

Lori Stepan Van Der Sluys

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  • Assistant Teaching Professor
  • Eberly College of Science Outreach Fellow
220D Whitmore Laboratory
and 226C Ritenour

University Park, PA 16802
(814) 867-2292


  1. B.A., Northwestern University, 1984
  2. Ph.D., Indiana University, 1991

Selected Publications:

“An Attractive “Cis-Effect” of Hydride on Neighbor Ligands:  Experimental and Theoretical Studies on the Structure and Intramolecular Rearrangements of Fe(H)2(η2-H2)-(PEtPh2)3.”  Lori Stepan Van Der Sluys, Juergen Eckert, Odile Eisenstein, John H. Hall, John C. Huffman, Sarah A. Jackson, Thomas F. Koetzle, Gregory J. Kubas, Phillip J. Vergamini, and Kenneth G. Caulton;* J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 1990, 112, 4831.

“Dihydrogen: a Better Ligand Than Water?  IR and X-ray Evidence for Aquo Coordination in W(CO)3(PR3)2(H2O).  Thermodynamics of H2O Versus η 2-H2 Binding, and H2O/D2 Isotopic Exchange.  Implications on the Biological Activation of Hydrogen.”  Gregory J. Kubas, Carol J. Burns, G.R.K. Khalsa, Lori Stepan Van Der Sluys, Gabor Kiss, and Carl D. Hoff, Organometallics, 1992, 11, 3390.

“Protonation of W(CO)3(PCy3)2.”  Lori Stepan Van Der Sluys, Gregory J. Kubas, Kimberly A. Kubat-Martin, and Kenneth G. Caulton*;  Inorg. Chem., 1991, 30, 306.

“Deprotonation of Uncharged Transition-Metal Dihydrogen Complexes with Copper Alkoxides, Characterization of the Heterometallic Complexes  (PR3)xMHyCu(PR3) (M = Fe,W), and X-ray Crystal Structure of (PEtPh2)3FeH3Cu(PEtPh2),”  Lori Stepan Van Der Sluys, M.M. Miller;  Gregory J. Kubas* and Kenneth G. Caulton;* J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 1991, 113, 2513.

“Reactivity of Ru(H2)(H)2(PPh3)3;  Dimerization to Form (PPh3)2(H)Ru(μ-H)3Ru(PPh3)3 and Decarbonylation of EtOH Under Mild Conditions.”  Lori Stepan Van Der Sluys, Gregory J. Kubas* and Kenneth G. Caulton,* Organometallics,1991, 10, 1033.

“Molecular Hydrogen Complexes of the Transition Metals.  7.  Kinetics and Thermo-dynamics of the Interconversion Between Dihydride and Dihydrogen Forms of W(CO)3(PR3)2H2 Where R = iso-propyl and cyclo-pentyl.”  G. Rattan K. Khalsa, Gregory J. Kubas*, Clifford J. Unkefer, Lori Stepan Van Der Sluys, and Kimberly A. Kubat-Martin; J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 1990, 112, 3855.

“Tricarbonyltris(nitrile) complexes of Cr, Mo, and W.” Gregory J. Kubas*, and Lori Stepan Van Der Sluys, Inorg. Syntheses,1990, 28, 29.


Development of Active and Collaborative Learning Methods in Chemical Education

One of the challenges of teaching a college-level general chemistry course is the large variation in learning level of the students.  It’s hard to expect students to do well in chemistry if they don’t understand the basics.  Chemistry builds upon certain basic topics, and if the infrastructure is weak the whole structure will not be stable.  Therefore, one of our most important goals in the design of our large lecture courses is to achieve strong knowledge of the basics, a knowledge that would be retained and built upon.  Another goal related to stronger knowledge is improved attitude; mastery of a topic inspires confidence, and the motivation to continue.  We hope to improve confidence and self-efficacy.

We believe that all students must be engaged and involved in order to learn the most.  Therefore, hands-on, active learning  is essential goal in the design of our courses.  Also important is giving students ownership of the learning process; they take responsibility for their own learning.  They must follow their own path to reach the correct conclusion, or they won’t be able to repeat this process as easily in the future.  This is very different from teacher-directed learning, where a student tries to make their learning conform to someone else’s way of thinking.

A final goal is to lessen the gap between the successful students and those at risk of failure.  Although better learning methods benefit all students, it is especially important not to leave behind the students that have different learning styles, different science backgrounds, misconceptions that deter learning, or lack of confidence.  We want to bring the weaker students up to speed, raise the self-efficacy of struggling students, and help every student succeed.

To this end, one of our projects has been the design, piloting, and assessment of active and collaborative learning modules for general chemistry. Design focused on the principles of mastery learning; increased retention, mastery and automaticity of essential topics. Activities were designed to be interactive and peer-centered, address common misconceptions, adapt to multiple learning styles, and emphasize a stepwise, consistent method of problem solving. The activities were specifically designed to be completed in small groups, in contrast to instructor-led activities. Module topics include The Bohr Model of the Hydrogen Atom, Intermolecular Forces, Kinetic Molecular Theory, and Concentration and Dilution.

Promotion of Science Education in the Community

As a Science Outreach Fellow for the Eberly College of Science, the goal is to bring science education to the community.  We work with members of the university community (faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students and staff) to coordinate activities between them and the public in many different settings.  Among the many projects that we work on, we offer tours and demonstration shows to school groups and scouting groups, participate in local festivals, fundraisers and science fairs, work with educators at the local schools, run science-based summer camps,  offer teacher professional development workshops,  and work closely with Penn State faculty that are completing projects designed for the “broader impact” section of grant proposals.  Promotion of science education and technology takes many forms.  Collaboration and communication is always to everyone’s benefit, and makes us all a stronger, more knowledgeable community, better able to make good decisions and discover new ways to improve.