Serendip's Togo connection

Susan White
Biochemistry, teaching, and Togo


Susan graduated from Dartmouth College in 1977 with a AB in Chemistry. After teaching physics (with a little chemistry) for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, and briefly teaching high school mathematics in the United States, Susan enrolled in a graduate program in physical chemistry with the ultimate goal of teaching on the college level. In her first semester at The Johns Hopkins University, she took a course in biophysical chemistry, and became fascinated with the idea that even large biomolecules obey the laws of physics and chemistry, suggesting that maybe life does as well. This fascination was the core of Susan's ongoing commitment to both research and teaching, and to a life of blending the two. She joined the faculty at Bryn Mawr College in 1991 as an Assistant Professor, was promoted to Associate Professor (with tenure) in 1997, and was named chair of the Chemistry Department in 1999. Susan's current research focuses on two classes of biological macromolecules, RNA and protein, and on the interactions between them, and is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.


Susan teaches a variety of courses at Bryn Mawr College, including General Chemistry and Biochemistry, as well as advanced courses in biochemistry. Like most College faculty, she also supervises both undergraduates and graduate students doing research in her laboratory. In addition, Susan has worked with Philadelphia precollege science teachers in an annual summer program.

Teaching Togo's rigorous science curriculum to many bright, young Togolese students further stimulated Susan's interest in science and science education. While in the classroom and at Peace Corps teacher training sessions ways of improving student's problem-solving skills, introducing them to experiments, and encouraging their active participation were discussed. At Bryn Mawr College these discussions continue with colleagues from a wide variety of disciplines.


After intensive Peace Corps training in French and pedagogy in Sokodé, in central Togo, and Lomé, the capital city on the coast, Susan was assigned to Lycée d'Amlamé, about 30 km southest of Atakpamé (about halfway between the two). She spent two years teaching physics and chemistry in this small town at the base of the mountains. Fruits, such as oranges, bananas, avocados, and pineapples were plentiful. During her third year she taught at Lycée de Dayes in the mountains north of Kpalimé. The climate was cooler, coffee and cocoa were the major cash crops, and mosquitos and malaria were less of a concern.

At the Lycée de Dayes, Susan met Mr. KOSSI Mawoussi (in Togo, last names are given first and capitalized), a German teacher who had earlier taught at Lycée de Pya located just north of Kara. After leaving Lycée de Dayes, Mr. KOSSI taught for eight years in Kpalimé, several years in Bassar, Badou, and Notsé and was then promoted to Assistant Principal in Vogan, just north of Aného. After two years in Vogan, Mr KOSSI became Principal of a new school in Tahoun, which Susan visited and taught at during her most recent trip to Togo. It is this school which we hope to both learn from and contribute to on this website.

(Map modified from one available at Encarta OnLine).

| Forum | Back to Togo Introduction | Back to Science Education | Back to Serendip |

Send us your comments at

© by Serendip '96 - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 10:53:13 CDT