Pia Sorensen

Pia Sorensen

  • Senior Preceptor in Chemical Engineering and Applied Materials
  • Lecturer on Science and Cooking
  • Instructor, Harvard Extension School
  • Lead Course Developer, HarvardX


Pia M. Sörensen co-teaches and manages the General Education course Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science (SPU 27), which explores how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in chemistry and physics. The course includes lectures by visiting top chefs from around the world, and the related public lecture series features these same lectures to the general public.

She serves as lead course developer and co-instructor of Science & CookingX, an online version of the college course and one of the largest courses on Edx. Based on the course materials in this class, she also teaches an online and a hybrid course at the Harvard Extension School.

Sörensen's interest in small molecules and fermentation led her to design a novel, project-based course: Flavor Molecules of Food Fermentation: Exploration and Inquiry (ES 24), offered for the first time in the spring of 2015. The course is unique in that it uses food fermentations as a way to explore not only microbial communities and characterization, but also metabolism and chemical properties and characterization of the small molecules that contribute taste and aroma in fermented foods.

She is the author and principal developer of the interactive textbook Science and Cooking: A Companion to the Harvard Course, which presents content in a combined media format of short videos, graphics, equations, and text.

Sörensen is editor of the book Online Chemistry Education and the Effect on the On Campus Classroom (forthcoming, American Chemical Society/Oxford University Press), an organizer of symposia on online science education (American Chemical Society National Meetings, spring 2015 and 2016), and regularly involved in various outreach activities to K-12 students, science educators, and the general public.

Her research interests range from science and engineering education — with an emphasis on online education and creative ways of teaching science and engineering in a liberal arts setting — to chemical biology, stemming from her doctoral work on small molecule natural products and their effects on cell division and other cellular processes. Recently Sörensen's interest has evolved to include various aspects of the science of food, as well as flavor chemistry and the chemical and microbial processes of fermentation.

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