Julia Y.S. Chang Wan

Science Educator
Julia Wan


Julia Y.S. Chang was born in Hong Kong in 1937 and lived in Shantou, China until 1947 when she and her parents moved to Hong Kong. After graduation from high school in Sydney, Australia, Julia came to the U.S. to attend Wellesley College. She received a B.A. in Physics in 1960. She married Frederic Wan in 1960 and worked as a research biochemist which led to publications in Science and in the Proceedings for the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. She received an M.A. in Chemistry in 1970 in order to start a career in science education, teaching high school physics and chemistry. While teaching, Julia also attended Boston College and received her doctorate in education in 1978 and particular proud of the article she co-authored in the Journal Science and Children that year.

Upon completing her doctorate, Julia moved to Washington State in 1979 when she was appointed Director of Curriculum of the Federal Way School District. She and Frederic commuted weekly between Vancouver and Seattle for four years until Frederic joined the faculty of the University of Washington in 1983. Julia was appointed Assistant Superintendent of the Bainbridge Island School District in 1984. In 1993, Julia was recruited by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington D.C. to serve two years as a director of the new science education reform initiative while on leave from her School District.

Julia was appointed Director of the Center for Science & Mathematics Education at Cal State Fullerton in 1995. There she collaborated with the National Science Resources Center at the Smithsonian Institutions to develop hands-on elementary science programs in Orange County School Districts with generous support from the Beckman Foundation. Julia retired from full-time employment in 2002, continuing to work part-time until 2006.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Julia is a strong advocate for women’s rights with service as the President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Boston Chapter, and a member of the National Board of NOW. For her contributions as a highly-regarded science educator, a policy maker and a contributor to social changes, Julia has received many awards and honors as well as being recognized through her appointments to regional and national boards and committees, such as the Board of Directors of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education; Board of Trustees, Girls' Incorporated of Orange County; and Education Opportunity Council of AAAS.