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Sophie Lavieri

Chemistry lecturer wins woman of distinction award

June 11, 2009

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Sophie Lavieri, a senior chemistry lecturer, has won a 2009 YWCA Woman of Distinction award.

The YWCA began the awards in 1984 "to honour, encourage and recognize women whose outstanding activities and achievements contribute to the health and future of the community."

Lavieri, who won in the education, training and development category, has spent more than 25 years working to make chemistry and science accessible and fun to students from all backgrounds.

The Venezuelan-born North Vancouver resident has helped not only countless university students to understand a difficult subject, she has also inspired thousands of B.C.’s children to take an interest in science.

The winner of teaching excellence awards from both the university (2006) and the Faculty of Science (2004-5), Lavieri makes chemistry fun, taking her portable lab into public schools where she puts on workshops at no cost to the schools.

Wearing her trademark white lab coat, latex gloves and protective goggles, Lavieri inspires students to think through complex problems and gain a thorough understanding of what for many is a difficult subject.

She created her Experimental Chemistry for Us workshops to involve the province’s elementary school children in chemistry experiments and her Science in Action and Chemistry Work Experience programs to provide high school students with hands-on science education.

Hers were the first workshops in Canada to engage elementary school children in real chemistry experiments. Kids don’t usually study chemistry until Grade 10.

But "that’s too late for students to be exposed to chemistry concepts," says Lavieri. "By then, they might have preconceived notions about the subject."

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