Towns is a professor of chemical education at Purdue University. Her research focuses on characterizing the diversity of faculty goals for the undergraduate chemistry laboratory, the array of strategies faculty implement in the name of those goals, and the assessments faculty utilize to measure the extent to which they meet those goals. Her research has increased our understanding of undergraduate laboratory, physical chemistry, and group learning, which has positively impacted teaching and learning in chemistry.

Towns received her B.A. degree in chemistry and mathematics from Linfield College, M.S. degree in chemical education from Purdue University, and Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry also from Purdue University. She is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has received a number of awards, including the ACS Award for Achievement in Research for the Teaching and Learning of Chemistry (2017), Distinguished Women Scholar Honoree at Purdue (2017), Linfield College Distinguished Alumna (2015), Society for College Science Teachers Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award (2015), Murphy Award (2013), Kelly Award (2013), and Purdue University Teaching Academy Fellow (2009).

Established in 1991, the Estee Lecture is named in honor of Charles Remington Estee, a professor of chemistry who inspired generations of students and motivated his colleagues to attain new heights. He served as chair of the chemistry department for 32 years and brought a sense of mission to science education. He organized and taught years of summer institutes for high school teachers and continued his contributions to the University as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus until his death.

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