Picture of Sally Hunnicutt

Sally Hunnicutt, Ph.D.

Associate Dean of Sciences & Mathematics - Professor
(804) 828-8488
Oliver Hall 3035


A. B. 1983 Duke University
M.S. 1986 University of Utah Thesis Adviser: Dr. Charles Wight
Ph.D. 1990 University of Cincinnati Thesis Adviser: Dr. Joyce Guest

Honors and awards

  • 2012, VCU College of Humanities & Sciences Teaching Award
  • 1989, Procter & Gamble American Chemical Society Division of Physical Chemistry Award

Research interests

Our chemical education research interests relate to the creation, use, and impacts of guided inquiry in different classroom environments.  Our current project focuses on revising physical chemistry laboratory experiments to incorporate guided inquiry and examining the effects of those changes on faculty and students.  The project is titled POGIL-PCL, Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning® – Physical Chemistry Laboratory. New experiments are developed collaboratively with physical chemistry faculty from across the United States at workshops, which take place at VCU.

Development status for selected POGIL-PCL experiments.
What are the kinetic parameters of a heterogeneous reaction? [beta-tested] Initial rates; kinetics; measure pressure versus time
How is the freezing point of a binary mixture of solids related to the composition of the mixture? [beta-tested] Colligative properties; freezing point depression; measure freezing point
What are the key factors that influence the rate of hydration of a chickpea? [in beta-testing] Osmosis; modeling & experiment design; measure mass versus time
How should apples be prepared for a fruit salad? [in beta-testing] Enzyme catalysis & modeling; measure absorbance versus time
How does a molecule’s structure affect the pKa of Its ground and excited states? [in beta-testing] Photoacidity & the Forster cycle; measure absorbance & fluorescence
What factors govern the escapability of a molecule from a liquid? [preliminary testing and initial review] Molecular dynamics; computational chemistry

We are also assessing the effectiveness of these experiments.  We will use transcribed videos of student discussions during the experiments to characterize the oral arguments students use to predict and interpret results.  Broadly, we will look for changes in the use of evidence to back up claims; more narrowly, we will probe the development of comprehension in specific content areas.  The video transcriptions will be used to discover links between the guided inquiry methodology and gains in students’ comprehension as well as physical chemistry laboratory skills such as modeling and experiment design.

Select publications

Ellen J. Yezierski, Christopher F. Bauer, Sally S. Hunnicutt, David M. Hanson, Katie E. Amaral, and James P. SchneiderPOGIL Implementation in Large Classes: Strategies for Planning, Teaching, and Management, in Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning: An ACS Symposium Series Book, Ed., Richard Moog, 2008.

Suzanne M. Ruder and Sally S. Hunnicutt POGIL in Chemistry Courses at a Large Urban University:  A Case Study, in Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning: An ACS Symposium Series Book, Ed., Richard Moog, 2008.

C. A. Holden, S. S. Hunnicutt, R. Sánchez-Ponce, J. M. Craig and S. C. Rutan “Study of Complexation in Methanol/Water Mixtures by Infrared and Raman Spectroscopy and Multivariate Curve Resolution-Alternating Least-Squares Analysis” Applied Spectroscopy, May 2003.

D. S. Dudis, J. B. Everhart, T. M. Branch, S. S. Hunnicutt, “Hydrogen Bond Energies of Hydrogen Chloride-Carbonyl Complexes”: J. Phys. Chem. 1996, 100, 2083-2088.

S. S. Hunnicutt, L. D. Waits and J. A. Guest, “Energetic Constraints in 218 nm Photolysis of Acetic Acid,” J. Phys. Chem., 1989, 93, 5188-5195.

S. S. Hunnicutt, L. D. Waits and J. A. Guest, ” 1(n,p*) Photochemistry of Acetic Acid at 200 nm: Further Evidence for an Exit Channel Barrier and Reaction Selectivity,” J. Phys. Chem., 1991, 95, 562-570.