Class of 2024 honors chemistry professor Shuai Sun with HOPE Award for teaching

LAWRENCE ­— The University of Kansas senior class has honored a chemist with the 2023 HOPE Award — to Honor an Outstanding Progressive Educator. 

Shuai Sun, assistant teaching professor of chemistry, was presented with the award Nov. 18 during the Sunflower Showdown football game between KU and Kansas State.

The HOPE Award was established by the Class of 1959 and is given to a faculty member who greatly affects students’ lives and exemplifies Jayhawk values in the classroom through exceptional teaching strategies. Today, the award remains the only honor given to faculty by the senior class through the Student Alumni and Endowment Board. 

Sun typically teaches between 300-600 students each year in introductory chemistry courses. The student who nominated Sun said he cares not just about students’ academic success, but also how they are doing mentally.

“He helps students achieve their goals outside of the classroom,” the student wrote. “He has helped me through my tough medical times and has helped me with DEIB issues. He has been a very reliable and compassionate professor to me and many others.”

Sun said he was “deeply honored and humbled” to receive the award.

“This recognition holds a special place in my heart, as it reflects the meaningful connections and impactful learning experiences shared with my students,” he said. “I am grateful for their trust and the opportunity to contribute not only to their academic growth but also to their personal and professional development.”

Sun earned a doctorate in physical chemistry (theoretical and computational chemistry) from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Before that, he earned a master's degree in physical chemistry (colloid and interface chemistry) from Shandong University and a bachelor's degree in chemistry and chemical education from Shandong Normal University, both in China.

“My journey in chemistry — from my academic roots in China and Canada to teaching hundreds of students each year at KU — has been driven by a passion for education and a commitment to the well-being and success of every student,” Sun said. “The joy and fulfillment I find in teaching are amplified by the engagement and curiosity of my students.”

Sun, who also won first place in Best of Lawrence for teacher five years in a row from 2019-2023, said the HOPE Award is a testament to the collective effort of the university community in fostering an environment where every student can thrive.

“Together, we continue to uphold and advance the esteemed Jayhawk values in every aspect of our academic journey,” Sun said.

Photo by Missy Minear, Kansas Althletics Inc.