Faculty Updates

Scholarly Associate Professor Jeremy Lessmann, PhD, was named the director of the Office of Undergraduate Research in January 2022.

Jeremy Lessmann.Professor Lessmann has been teaching in the Department since Fall semester 2001 but this January he took on a new half-time role at the University as the Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), part of the Division of Academic Success and Student Engagement (DAESA) under Interim Vice Provost for Academic Success and Student Achievement William B. Davis and Assistant Vice Provost Mary Sanchez-Lanier. The Office of Undergraduate Research exists to promote, support, and celebrate mentored Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity throughout the WSU system. The best-known event OUR puts on is SURCA, the annual Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity. In addition, OUR gives out Undergraduate Research Fellowships to current students engaging in undergraduate research and scholarship, runs the UNIV 199 course Introduction to Directed Research, and has a team or research Peer Mentors both of which are available to help undergraduates develop the tools to seek out mentored research opportunities in their own programs. Prof. Lessmann says, “After more than 20 years as teaching faculty and advising our Chemistry majors I had an opportunity to expand my role at the University and direct several projects that I have been involved with for years. I want to expand access to research opportunities for WSU students in all majors because I know how beneficial it was to my growth as a Chemist and I know it will be just a valuable for them. I also look forward to continuing engaging our majors in the classroom and lab and in advising sessions.”

Phil Garner Retirement

Garner Phil.We bid farewell to Professor Phil Garner this year as he begins his retirement from the Department of Chemistry after 15 years of service. He joined the faculty in 2007 after moving west from his previous faculty post at Case Western University. Since then, Garner’s passion for scientific rigor and relentless pursuit of challenging problems in organic chemistry has helped shape the characters of the many students who worked in his lab and resulted in a substantial body of scientific work recognized on an international level.

Garner was born and raised in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where he developed an early interest in nature and science. He earned both his BS in chemistry (1977) and PhD in organic chemistry (1981) at the University of Pittsburgh under the guidance of Prof. Paul Dowd. Garner did his postdoctoral work in Prof. Paul Grieco’s laboratory at Indiana University. In 1983, he took up his first faculty position at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and initiated a research program concerned with the stereo-controlled synthesis of complex nucleoside antibiotics. “Phil Garner introduced me to the messy and exciting real world of research,” said Prof. Vince Rotello, previously an undergraduate in Garner’s lab at IIT. “Phil was a demanding taskmaster and a fiery personality, making for an exciting ride. And the ride was a very productive one. Besides getting my first publication, I had the skill and knowledge to walk into my graduate life at Yale and hit the ground running.”

It was also at IIT where Garner first reported the synthesis of a widely used chiral building block derived from Serine that has since become known as Garner’s Aldehyde.

He moved to Case Western Reserve University in 1985 where he established a broad research program that included the synthesis of natural products, the development of new methodology for organic synthesis, and the invention of novel drug platforms. After moving to the WSU Chemistry department, Garner continued this work, leading his students in the development of new methods in asymmetric synthesis, the total synthesis of complex natural products, and peptide chemistry. Recent work in his lab has established the concept of expressed protein glycoligation, bridging the gap between chemical glycosylation and the recombinant expression of proteins. In 2016, Phil Cox, a Garner group alum and senior principal research scientist at AbbVie, began a collaboration between AbbVie and the Garner lab. “It was fantastic to rekindle our relationship after so many years and it was great to see Phil in action again with his last group of three grad students, Dan, Nick, and Upendra. It was awesome to see the development of these guys from the beginning, where they were getting used to the Garner Method, to the end, as confident, excellently trained scientists.” In his retirement, Garner says he plans to spend as much time as possible exploring nature. “I love nature,” he writes, “after all, that is what drew me to science!” In addition to his love of chess, gardening, cooking and reading, he has also rediscovered his interest in painting and woodworking. With all of that and his plan to “tie up loose ends on some research projects and writing a book on organic synthesis,” it sounds like his will certainly be an active retirement.

“What will I miss? Interacting with students and the opportunity to impact their lives in a positive way. It is very satisfying to see how successful my students are once they leave the nest.” -Phil Garner

Faculty Promotions

Paul Buckley

Professor, CT

Adenike Otoikhian

Associate Professor, CT

Nelmi Devarie Baez

Scholarly Associate
Professor, CT


Farewell to Lori Peterson

Lori (Bruce) Peterson.Long-time Chemistry employee Lori (Bruce) Peterson left the department this year to become faculty affairs coordinator in the Carson College of Business dean’s office, where she concentrates on all faculty matters and manages the college’s academic accreditation process. While in Chemistry, Lori took on many tasks, which included submitting an average of 71 funding proposals per year for Chemistry faculty; compiling data for tenure and promotion, faculty annual reviews, and assessment; assisting the chair; and, most recently, assisting with the Chemistry PhD program. During her time on staff, she served as assistant to three successive chairs: Sue Clark, Kerry Hipps, and Kirk Peterson. She was dedicated to the success of faculty through her late-night efforts to meet funding deadlines, and the couch in her office was always open to anyone who needed a problem solved or just needed to talk. While Lori is now located across the courtyard behind Fulmer in Todd Hall, she says Chemistry will always be “home.”

Rock Mancini.

Farewell to Rock Mancini

We wish all the best to Prof. Rock Mancini as he leaves to set up a new laboratory as an assistant professor at the University of Miami-Ohio.

Aurora Clark.

Farewell to Aurora Clark

We also must say our good-byes, and certainly also our strong best wishes, to Prof. Aurora Clark as she leaves WSU Chemistry for new adventures at the University of Utah as a professor in their department of chemistry. Clark’s numerous contributions to the department and WSU will be greatly missed.