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Norb Pienta was born in Lackawanna, NY in 1952.  He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Rochester (1974), a PhD at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (1978) with Paul J Kropp, and conducted postdoctoral work with Edward M. Arnett at the University of Pittsburgh (1978-80) and at Duke University (1980).  He was an Assistant and tenured Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (1980-9), where he worked on photochemistry and photophysics of organic reactive intermediates and other problems in physical organic chemistry.  He moved to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where was Director of Laboratories and worked on the laboratory curriculum for all undergraduate courses.  Pienta was an Associate and full Professor at the University of Iowa (1999-2012), working on chemical education and directing the general chemistry program.  He has been at UGA since 2012 as the Director of General Chemistry Instruction and Professor of Chemistry, where he conducts chemistry education research and scholarship.

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My group conducts research and scholarship about the teaching and learning of chemistry.  For student learning, we devise methods, instruments (i.e., means of data collection), and analytics (e.g., patterns, pathways, and strategies).  The general areas and topics include

  • student problem-solving in introductory courses
    • cognitive load (i.e., role of short term memory) in word problems
    • representations of atomic and molecular structures
  • use of eye-tracking hardware and software in student learning
    • development of research methods using eye-tracking hardware: LCD monitor, goggles and Google® Glass
    • student understanding of graphics, figures, and molecular representations
    • student analysis of spectral data
  • laboratory experiences in introductory courses
    • identifying and understanding student skills and activities
    • electronic data collection and experiments to promote guided inquiry
  • multimedia delivery of content, self-assessments (i.e., practice or homework) and assessments (i.e., quizzes and tests)
  • curricular redesign and development
    • design and use of a preparatory chemistry course to increase student success
    • creation of online versions of courses
Selected Publications:

Tang, H., & Pienta, N. (2017). GrpString (Version 0.1.0) [Computer Software]. The Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN). Retrieved from

Topczewski, J. J., Topczewski, A. M., Tang, H., Kendhammer, L. K., & Pienta, N. J. (2017). NMR Spectra through the Eyes of a Student: Eye Tracking Applied to NMR Items. Journal of Chemical Education, 94(1), 29-37. doi:10.1021/acs.jchemed.6b00528

Tang, H., Kirk, J., & Pienta, N. J. (2014). Investigating the Effect of Complexity Factors in Stoichiometry Problems Using Logistic Regression and Eye Tracking. JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL EDUCATION, 91(7), 969-975. doi:10.1021/ed4004113

Pienta, N. J. (2014). Strategies for success in general chemistry redesign. Retrieved from

Pienta, N. J. (2014). Examining student knowledge in a one-semester organic-biochemistry course. Retrieved from

Tang, H., Topczewski, J. J., Topczewski, A. M., & Pienta, N. J. (2012). Permutation test for groups of scanpaths using normalized Levenshtein distances and application in NMR questions.. In C. H. Morimoto, H. O. Istance, S. N. Spencer, J. B. Mulligan, & P. Qvarfordt (Eds.), ETRA (pp. 169-172). ACM. doi:10.1145/2168556.2168584

Schuttlefield, J. D., Kirk, J., Pienta, N. J., & Tang, H. (2012). Investigating the Effect of Complexity Factors in Gas Law Problems. Journal of Chemical Education, 89(5), 586-591. doi:10.1021/ed100865y

Tang, H., & Pienta, N. (2012). Eye-Tracking Study of Complexity in Gas Law Problems. Journal of Chemical Education, 89(8), 988-994. doi:10.1021/ed200644k

Norbert J. Pienta. (2011). General Chemistry Student Surveys: Longitudinal Data about Which Factors Helped Students Learn. In Investigating Classroom Myths through Research on Teaching and Learning (1074 ed., pp. 121-135). American Chemical Society. doi:10.1021/bk-2011-1074.ch009

Sarah C. Larsen., Norbert J. Pienta., & Russell G. Larsen. (2009). Development of Hands-on Nanotechnology Content Materials: Undergraduate Chemistry and Beyond. In Nanotechnology in Undergraduate Education (1010 ed., pp. 87-99). American Chemical Society. doi:10.1021/bk-2009-1010.ch007