Environmental Science Faculty

Jennifer Sorensen, Ph.D.

Headshot of Jen Sorensen


Assistant Professor
Environmental Science Affiliate

Phone: 206.296.5411

Building/Room: BANN 511A



Since March 2000 Dr. Jen Sorensen has taught in the Chemistry Department at Seattle University, and since July 2005 she has been Director of the General Science program. Prior to that, she was an instructor in the Chemistry Department at the University of Georgia. Dr. Sorensen teaches introductory/general chemistry, environmental chemistry, interdisciplinary science courses, and the senior synthesis (research) series for general science and environmental science majors. She has mentored at least ten undergraduate research students conducting original research, and has supervised over 160 seniors writing a literature-based senior thesis.


Sorensen’s scholarly work has spanned three different areas: science education, sustainability, and computational chemistry.

Science Education: Jen Sorensen was co-Principal Investigator of (IC), a collaborative research project with Girl Scouts of Western Washington. This project developed training courses for Girl Scout troop leaders that empowers them to facilitate inquiry science activities with their troops. In addition to the training curricula, the project provides ongoing activity ideas, science content support, and a community of practitioners to reinforce inquiry habits. IC was funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Sorensen was a science team leader for the Washington State College Readiness Project Phase II. In this capacity, she worked with high school teachers to develop teaching materials and techniques that help cultivate the attributes students should develop to achieve readiness for college-level science courses. Prior to that, she was a key member of the Phase I Science Team that defined college readiness content, skills, and attributes.

Starting in 2014, Sorensen is looking forward to collaborating with colleagues in the College of Education to create new pathways for undergraduate science and engineering majors to become credentialed science and math teachers.

Sustainability: Jen Sorensen was the faculty leader of SUPER - the Seattle U. Project on the Environment and Recycling. Through SUPER, students apply their chemical and scientific knowledge to environmental problems impacting the campus community. For example, we developed a suite of tests to perform process monitoring of Seattle University's on-site composting facility. Student projects have studied such diverse topics as mercury recycling in fluorescent light bulbs and compostable cups and plates.

Outside of the classroom, Sorensen was one of two faculty mentors to a novel team project that included graduate business students and an undergraduate environmental science student. Their research led to a community education and marketing plan for a low-technology water filtration system used in Nicaragua.

At university level, Dr. Sorensen worked with a team of colleagues from across the university to conceptualize and launch the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability, Seattle University’s first “Center for Excellence.” The CEJS is now an intellectual hub of student and faculty scholarship across academic disciplines.

Computational Chemistry: Dr. Sorensen’s research in computational chemistry has used both quantum and classical mechanics to model molecular systems of biological interest. These methods are used to predict the molecular shape and properties of novel drug candidates. Prior to her doctoral research in the Computational Center for Molecular Structure and Design at the University of Georgia, Sorensen was a Fulbright Student Scholar at the Technical University of Budapest, Hungary. During that time she used ab initio methods to study phosphinoboranes.

Selected Works


  • Teaching Science Facilitation in a Community Organization, J. Sorensen, Proceedings of the 2013 Western Region Research Conference on the Education of Adults, Seattle Washington (2013).
  • Calculating Interaction Energies Using First Principle Theories – Consideration of Basis Set Superposition Error and Fragment Relaxation, K. N. Kirschner, J. B. Sorensen, J. P. Bowen, J. Chem. Educ., 84, 1225 (2007).
  • Ab Initio Calculations and Molecular Mechanics (MM3) Parameterization of Protonated-Neutral Amine Hydrogen Bonds, J. B. Sorensen, A. H. Lewin, J. P. Bowen, J. Org. Chem., 66, 4105 (2001).

Presentations& Workshops

  • “Embedding Inquiry Science in Girl Scouts” J. Sorensen, S. Lingwood, over 300 Girl Scout staff and volunteer facilitators trained through 1-3 day workshops, multiple locations in Washington, Oregon, California, and Maine, February-October 2012.
  • "Demonstrating 'Numeracy' in Non-Major Chemistry Courses" J. Sorensen, 18th Biennial Conference on Chemical Education, Ames, IA, July 2004.
  • "Molecular Mechanics (MM3) Development of a Polyamine Force Field" J. B. Sorensen, A. H. Lewin, J. P. Bowen, 216th Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Boston, MA, August 1998.


  • Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability Co-Founder, Seattle University
  • University Core Revision Committee, Seattle University
  • Second-Term General Chemistry Examination Committee, American Chemical Society
  • Seattle Expanding Your Horizons Planning Committee

Public Speaking

  • “Seattle University at the Frontiers of Environmental Justice and Sustainability” Seattle University Mission Day, April 2013.
  • “A Faculty Perspective on Jesuit Education at Seattle University” Seattle University Summer Orientation keynote speech to parents, July 2008, July 2009.
  • “Majors and Careers in the Chemical Sciences” American Chemical Society/American Association of Clinical Chemistry workshop for high school teachers, Bellevue WA, October 2005.
  • “Encouraging the Next Generation of Female Scientists and Engineers” University of Washington Women in Science and Engineering Conference, Seattle WA, April 2003.


  • Ph.D., Physical Chemistry, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Science Education (coursework complete), University of Georgia
  • B.S., Chemistry (ACS certified), Fairfield University


Book Recommendations