Faculty Profile: Susan Jansen Varnum

Susan Jansen Varnum, professor of chemistry and CST’s Associate Dean for Science Education, is not one for leaving the future of science education in America to chance. Through her teaching and a variety of community outreach roles, Jansen Varnum educates students from elementary up through the graduate level, with one goal in mind: inspire the next generation of scientists.

“I think it's part of my nature. You see kids come to college, but you know that you're missing out on so much talent in the community,” Jansen Varnum says. “How do we get the kids who are in 7th grade to start thinking about college?”

Jansen Varnum is working on multiple solutions to that problem. An initiatve is Philly Club Forensics, a program that works with the Association for Women in Forensic Science to introduce middle- and high-school age girls in Philadelphia to forensic sciences. The club is held once a month in a multi-purpose room in the Department of Chemistry.

“The students learn about DNA profiling, extract DNA from fruits and vegetables, and do basic forensic experiments including fingerprints analysis,” Jansen Varnum says. “The idea is two-fold: to engage kids and get them to think about careers in science, and to form a commmunity partnership with Temple.”

Jansen Varnum is also the pointwoman for other community outreach efforts, including a partnership with the nonprofit Let's Get Ready that will provide SAT preparation to about 120 area students this summer, and a relationship with the U.S. Navy to put on summer camps and an after-school robotics competition. This spring, Jansen Varnum also helped coordinate Temple's participation in the Philadelphia Science Festival, a 9-day event that featured dozens of events for all ages throughout the city.

One of Jansen Varnum's biggest endeavors is the annual ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, for which she serves as camp director and is tasked with organizing activities and developing curriculum for several dozen overnight campers.

Jansen Varnum says she believes there has been a significant increase in community outreach efforts from the College of Science and Technology in recent years, starting with former dean, now provost, Hai-Lung Dai and continuing under Dean Michael Klein.

“Technology is increasing, but we do not have the science and engineering expertise we need,” says Jansen Varnum. “We have a responsibility as Temple University to be a leader in higher education and support our community.”

-Kyle Bagenstose