The People of the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy On


WISL Staff

Jerry A. Bell
Faculty Associate

For Iowa native Jerry Bell, an interest in chemistry developed at a young age with his first chemistry set. Because today’s rigorous safety standards were not yet in place, Bell was able to get a hold of what he calls “some interesting and relatively dangerous stuff” from a supply house in Chicago, and staged many at-home experiments. This, along with many other professional and personal qualities, makes Bell a perfect fit for the WISL.

After deciding on a career in science, Bell earned a bachelor’s degree, followed by a PhD in Chemistry, both from Harvard University. During his time at Harvard, he worked as volunteer tutoring students in math and science. He quickly learned that they were struggling with visualizing the concepts, because they had no lab or hands-on experience of any kind.

This first foray into teaching stuck with him, and Bell has gone on to hold teaching and research positions at colleges across the country, including UW-Madison, the University of California-Riverside, Brandeis University and Simmons College. He served at the National Science Foundation as director of the Division for Teacher Preparation and Enhancement (1984-1986), as director of the UW-Madison Institute for Chemical Education (1986-1989). He was director for Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1992-1999), and was a senior scientist with the Education Division at the American Chemical Society (1999-2009) where he continues to serve as a consultant.

Bell is widely recognized for his outstanding contributions to science education by many major awards including the ACS George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education (2000), the ACS James Flack Norris in Chemistry Education (1992) and the Chemical Manufacturers Catalyst Award (1977). Bell is an excellent advocate, and for almost 40 years a collaborator with Dr. Shakhashiri, of experiment-based education. In 2010, he was named professor emeritus by Simmons College.

Bell travels to Wisconsin monthly for his work with WISL. His work on behalf of the WISL in the Washington, DC area includes activities with educational groups and laboratory research in the chemistry department at the University of Maryland-College Park.

He lives in Silver Springs, MD, with his wife Mary Ann, who is a cell biology professor at George Washington University. They spend their free time attending as many intellectual and cultural events as possible: plays, concerts, museums and more.

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