Skip to main content
Staci Simonich in front of shrubbery

New associate dean to lead student success in science

By Debbie Farris

Staci Simonich, professor of chemistry and of environmental and molecular toxicology

The College of Science welcomes Staci Simonich as Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, effective February 1, 2017. Simonich is a professor with joint appointments in the College of Science’s Department of Chemistry and the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology.

She replaces Julie Greenwood who is now Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies at OSU’s Division of Undergraduate Studies, and mathematics instructor Lyn Riverstone, who served as interim Assistant Dean in the College for the past five months.

Simonich will serve as an integral part of the College’s Executive Leadership Team to advance the mission of the College. As a champion of student success, she will help identify and implement strategies to improve the academic, recruitment, retention, and co-curricular programs within the College. She will also support the College’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by enhancing our partnerships with LSAMP, SACNAS, STEM Leaders Program, the College’s Student Advisory Committee and OSU’s cultural centers.

Simonich will be responsible for developing strategies for implementing the strategic plan of the College to improve undergraduate student success and equalization by closing gaps in degree completion for Pell-eligible, first generation, and underrepresented students in the College.

An environmental chemist, Simonich brings an impressive and well-rounded portfolio with research, teaching and industry experiences. She joined OSU’s faculty in 2001 after working in industry within Procter & Gamble’s consumer product division. At OSU, Simonich has served as a mentor to undergraduate students conducting research, and as a dissertation advisor and mentor to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. In terms of leadership preparation, Simonich participated in OSU’s ADVANCE program and LEAD 21- Leadership for the 21st Century for Land Grant Universities. She also served in an administrative role as Associate Department Head in the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology.

“I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Simonich to the College’s executive leadership team. She has always been a strong supporter for students both in our College and at OSU for many years,” said Sastry G. Pantula, dean of the College of Science.

“She also has an extraordinary record of accomplishment as a scientist, a teacher, a mentor and a national and global leader,” adds Pantula. “I am particularly excited about her commitment to enhancing diversity and student success, which are both close to my heart.”

Simonich’s research has been published in Science, Nature, Environmental Health Perspectives, Environmental Science & Technology, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, and the Journal of Geophysical Research.

This month, Simonich teamed up with researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to publish a study revealing that toxic particles in the atmosphere are linked to lung cancer risk at a much higher rate than assumed. The findings, which were published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that tiny floating particles can grow semi-solid around pollutants, allowing them to last longer and travel much farther than what previous global climate models predicted. Scientists said the new estimates more closely match actual measurements of the pollutants taken in more than 300 urban and rural settings—and the global lung cancer risk is double the allowable limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

Simonich’s lab comprises students from across chemistry, toxicology and environmental engineering whose research is focused on novel and improved analytical methods and techniques for studying the fate of semi-volatile organic contaminants in the atmosphere, aquatic, and terrestrial compartments.

The team examines how these compounds move throughout the environment and transform during the application of various remediation technologies. They also investigate what implications the newly formed transformation products may present to the environment and its inhabitants.

Simonich’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, and the NIH Superfund Research Program, among others. Last summer, the National Institute of Health named Simonich’s study on how coal-tar based sealcoats on driveways and parking lots are far more toxic than previously suspected as one of its Papers of the Month.

Simonich was a member of the National Academies’ Committee on “The Significance of International Transport of Air Pollutants” and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Task Force on Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution. Currently, she is the Associate Editor for the American Chemical Society journal, Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

An exceptional teacher, Simonich has taught and mentored dozens of undergraduate and graduate students at OSU for more than 15 years. She has also developed courses, including “Adventures in Collaboration & Team Science (or Scientists are People, Too!);” “Environmental Transformations of Organic Compounds,” a short course for international teaching in places such as Peking University in China; and a new graduate-level chemistry course.

In 2013, Simonich distinguished herself with OSU’s Impact Award for Scholarship and in 2015 with the Excellence in Graduate Mentoring Award.

Simonich has received other honors. In 2001, she received the Roy F. Weston Environmental Chemistry Award by Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry for early to mid-career scientists who have accomplished and published outstanding contributions that have advanced the understanding or development of environmental systems, technologies, methodologies or other relevant research in the environmental sciences.

In 2003, she received an NSF Career Award, the most prestigious award given to junior faculty members for outstanding and innovative research and the effective application of that research in university teaching and education.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and her Ph.D. in chemistry from Indiana University.