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Michael Lerner standing in front of black backdrop

Mike Lerner to lead Chemistry Department

By Debbie Farris

Michael Lerner, Head of the Department of Chemistry

The College of Science welcomes Michael Lerner as the Head of the Department of Chemistry effective immediately. Lerner is a Professor in Chemistry and is the longtime director of online education and head graduate advisor in the department.

With extensive research and teaching experience as a professor of chemistry, Mike Lerner will lead the department’s academic and research mission. Chemistry is home to internationally renowned faculty with an outstanding graduate program and state-of-the-art research. He will oversee about 40 faculty/staff and 120 graduate students. Lerner will also continue his research and teaching.

“Mike is a successful and highly respected teacher and researcher,” said College of Science Dean Roy Haggerty. “The Department of Chemistry and the College leadership deeply respect Mike’s dedication to chemistry teaching and research. His leadership in online learning in chemistry is particularly valuable for the College of Science at a time when we are looking to expand our offerings.

"I want to thank Associate Dean Matt Andrews for graciously stepping in as Interim Head for the Department of Chemistry as we prepared to transition the leadership this summer," said Haggerty.

“I am grateful to former Department Head Rich Carter for his five years of service to the department and the College of Science. Under his tenure, the department hired exceptional new faculty, grew the number of chemistry majors, graduated a record number of undergraduates and guided the College's largest research program."

With a passion for undergraduate education, Lerner has taught inorganic and general chemistry courses for more than 25 years since joining Oregon State in 1990. He has spent time in industry, at the battery company PolyStor (1996-98) and at Intel (2001-02) and continues to consults for the battery industry.

Lerner has spent decades training generations of science students, also developing new courses and components in courses, such as Energy and Transportation, Scientific Hypotheses, and Integrated Labs among others.

“I am really honored and delighted with this opportunity to lead our amazing Chemistry Department,” said Lerner. “Our program already has a curriculum loaded with learning opportunities, and we encourage our majors to be involved in undergraduate research."

"We’ll continue to innovate and work hard to prepare our students for advanced degrees at top graduate schools and for successful careers in industry."

An early pioneer of online learning, Lerner helped establish and lead the distance education program in chemistry. Under Lerner’s tenure, online chemistry courses have grown dramatically and helped students be successful on and off campus for the past decade. In 2007, roughly 2,000 student credit hours were taught in online chemistry courses. By last year, that number had quadrupled to more than 9,000. Currently, about 15% of all credit hours in chemistry are now delivered online. This percentage will continue to grow and educators and students become increasingly familiar with online learning, according to Lerner.

For more than 15 years, the department has been at the forefront of technology-enabled learning and pedagogical innovation in its online chemistry courses, with Lerner one of the key drivers. Extremely popular among students from around the world, the courses provide flexible scheduling, access to previously unavailable courses and an alternative way to learn. Currently, the department offers more than 20 chemistry courses and labs online.

In collaboration with colleagues Richard Nafshun and Michael Schuyler, Lerner co-founded OnlineLabs, Inc. in 2009. The company is dedicated to developing the next generation of virtual lab software and bringing a superior online lab experience to college and high school students and educators nationwide. The three chemistry professors developed a way to deliver a superior virtual lab experience that has significantly improved outcomes, as confirmed by both students and instructors.

Most recently, Lerner has been instrumental in launching a new collaboration between the Chemistry Department, Ecampus and Smart Sparrow, an adaptive learning and instructional design company. This collaboration will enable chemistry faculty to design their own, scientifically meaningful, wet lab experiments that can serve as stand-alone experiences, be used to reinforce material or help prepare students for on campus lab work. With a completion date of early 2018, the project is currently focused on general chemistry course sequences for non-science majors.

A highly accomplished scholar, Lerner was named a Fulbright Scholar twice, in 2002 and 2015, received a Presidential Young Investigator award by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow.

Lerner’s research focuses on developing new materials, especially intercalation compounds and nanocomposites for applications in energy storage. To date, he has about 80 academic publications, in journals, such Inorganic Chemistry, Chemistry of Materials, Nanoscale, Journal of the American Chemical Society and more.

Lerner has served in a range of leadership and service capacities at OSU, including the Baccalaureate Core Committee and the Graduate Council. Recently, he also served as chair of the Distance Learning Working Group that is leading efforts to advance the College’s 5-year strategic plan goals.

After completing his undergraduate education in chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, Lerner earned his Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. He had postdoctoral positions at Northwestern University and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.

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