In recognition of her mentorship and commitment to student success, Lombardi received the Hegarty Award for Excellence in Teaching at Academic Convocation last fall. A colleague who nominated Lombardi noted, “More than anyone else I know, she provides the students with a sense of belongingness that makes them comfortable and want to learn.” Here, Lombardi shares the advice she gives to students, recalls a high school chemistry class and talks about riding a hoverboard.

Favorite teaching moment:

Any time I see the lightbulb go on. Chemistry is hard, and our students work hard. Seeing that moment where it all pays off is wonderful.

Advice I often share with students:

Figuring out what you don’t like is as important as figuring out what you do like. You have to try things. Sometimes it won’t be the right thing for you, and that is fine. Learn from it.

I first became interested in chemistry:

In high school, when I had an awesome chemistry teacher that made everything exciting. But organic chemistry was really a turning point for me. Learning to visualize molecules and develop strategies to build new molecules with reactions fundamentally changed the way my brain thinks about solving problems.

Something I wish everyone knew about chemistry:

Everything is made of molecules, and as a result chemistry is everywhere and relevant to everyone. Understanding chemistry is more useful than being afraid of it.

I once sent a Harry Potter mini-figure into an exam with a student who was particularly stressed about it. I think it worked out!

I’m most curious about:

The origins of chirality. Some molecules, because of their 3-D orientations, exist as a 50:50 mixture of mirror images that are non-superimposable (much like our hands). Much of nature and our bodies only use one version of these molecules. These molecules and their specific 3-D shapes are essential for life. We don’t know why or how that all started.

If I weren’t teaching, I would be:

A Lego master, a detective or writing children’s books with my sister.

Something new that I recently learned:

How to ride a hoverboard.

Most people don’t realize that:

I was a first-generation college student, have run three marathons, am the youngest of six.

Favorite quote:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s been attributed to a lot of different people. It’s good advice for my students, but also for myself. None of us are the same. We each have unique skills, talents, challenges and situations. Focusing on how to be the best version of myself is better than trying to measure up to someone else.

In my office, I have:

A lot of toys and silly things for students and faculty to use when visiting or taking a break. I once sent a Harry Potter mini-figure into an exam with a student who was particularly stressed about it. I think it worked out!