Holger Frauenrath

Prize in the Materials Science and Engineering section

A chemist by training, Holger Frauenrath started teaching the Bachelor’s course, Organic chemistry, in 2010. He has since transformed the course, making it more innovative, effective and a better fit for students in EPFL’s Materials Science and Engineering section.

Organic chemistry is a cornerstone of the Bachelor’s in Materials Science and Engineering, but it tended to put off the students. Professor Frauenrath successfully revamped the course by complementing the theory with time in the lab and class projects. According to the students’ course evaluations, that made all the difference. “Traditionally, reaction mechanisms were simply drawn on paper,” he explained. “They were very abstract. But with the labs, students get to generate the reactions themselves. I think that makes it a lot easier to understand and memorize the mechanisms.”

For the German professor, learning organic chemistry is similar to learning a new language. “It’s like learning Chinese. You have to master the writing and be able to draw the reactions by hand.” He regrets, however, not being able to spend more time drawing the different reactions on the blackboard. “The course is packed with information. I only have enough time to go over the main theoretical concepts. The students are required to look into the details themselves.”

Professor Frauenrath is an exemplary lecturer who feels perfectly at ease in a lecture hall. “I like teaching and I think people can see that.” Indeed, the quality of his teaching has not gone unnoticed. He received teaching awards at ETH Zurich and the Free University of Berlin, where he taught prior to EPFL. He can now add the 2016 teaching prize in the Materials Science and Engineering section to his accolades.
Professor Frauenrath also teaches the Master’s courses Organic electronic materials and Supramolecular aspects of polymer materials. He is the director of the Laboratory of Macromolecular and Organic Materials (LMOM) and of the Doctoral Program in Materials Science and Engineering (EMDX-GE).