A scholar-practitioner by anyone’s standards, Sabrina Fu always looks for new ways to put her scientific knowledge and experience to work for the benefit of her students, as well as her community. In fact, this environmental management professor and Drazek Teaching Award winner views science as the gateway to solving many of the serious social and environmental challenges we face as a nation.
Fu inherited both her passion and her philosophy from her father, who believed that a good education followed by a solid career in science would empower his daughter to accomplish two very important goals. “First, he wanted greater financial stability for his children than he had been able to provide. He also believed that science alone could solve many of society’s problems.”
So after completing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, she went on to earn a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from University of California, Berkeley. She also spent her summers working in research laboratories, where she learned the value of clear focus and a strong work ethic. And with this knowledge in hand, she set off to make her mark in nuclear waste management, conducting research in glass chemistry and glass physics, important to nuclear waste storage.
In 2001, she found her niche. After a brief stint in England, Fu applied for an online faculty position at UMUC, teaching natural science. She was named a collegiate professor in the environmental management program in 2004.
As an “out-of-the-box” thinker and doer, Fu’s approach to education is both holistic and hands-on. Her online courses are not only highly interactive, they incorporate other career-relevant disciplines like ethics, information literacy, and writing. Likewise, Fu is a big believer in connecting the dots between classroom instruction and community action.
One of her pet projects began with a group of UMUC students and a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, and resulted in an online repository of reduce, recycle, and reuse resources and educational tools for the public. She is also an inexhaustible volunteer, who devotes long hours to such important local projects as the Howard County Legacy Leadership for the Environment and the Howard County Watershed Stewardship Academy.
“I tell my students that to work in this field, you have to be ready to make a lot of different connections. To be creative, think long-term, and see systems, not just isolated events.”