Meet Vice President Isiah M. Warner

photo: isiah warner

Isiah M. Warner

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
Boyd Professor and Philip W. West Professor Analytical & Environmental Chemistry
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor

Birth Year: 1946
Academic Record:  Ph.D., Analytical Chemistry, University of Washington, 1977; Non Degree Course Work, Joint Center for Graduate Study, Richland, WA, 1969-73; B.S., Chemistry (Scholar, Cum Laude), Southern University, 1968; Valedictorian, Carver High School, Bunkie, LA, 1964

Professor Warner is a Boyd Professor in the Louisiana State University (LSU) system, which is the highest professorial rank in the LSU system. He has more than 300 refereed publications in a variety of journals relevant to the general areas of analytical and materials chemistry. His particular expertise is in the area of fluorescence spectroscopy, where his research has focused for more than 35 years. He is considered one of the world’s experts in the analytical applications of fluorescence spectroscopy. For example, he is the corresponding author for the highly cited biannual reviews on “Molecular Fluorescence, Phosphorescence, and Chemiluminescence Spectrometry“, which is published biennially in the journal, Analytical Chemistry. Over the past 20 years, he has maintained a strong research effort in the areas of organized media and separation science. He has also been performing research in the more specific area of analytical applications of ionic liquids for several years. It is this research on ionic liquids which has led to his conceptualization and implementation of a group of uniform materials based on organic salts (GUMBOS) as novel materials, which can be exploited for a variety of applications. He has had close to 60 graduate students (51 of whom have graduated with a Ph.D.) to matriculate in his research laboratory.

In addition to fundamental research, Professor Warner has conducted educational research which focuses on mechanisms for maintaining and enhancing student education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with a particular focus on encouraging his students to pursue terminal degrees. Many of his students have gone on to pursue PhDs and post doctoral studies at some of this country’s most prestigious institutions including Harvard, MIT, Georgia Tech, University of Michigan, Rice University, and the University of Washington.  His desire to be an educator has propelled him into an academic career. However, he is now considered more than an educator since he is also a mentor to students all over the world. Mentoring is a mechanism by which he pays homage to those individuals who were mentors for him during his years of growth as an educator. One highlight of his career was his selection as an HHMI Professor for his many educational activities.  He is only one of three professors to maintain this honor over the past three HHMI Professor selection processes.

Excellent teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level has always been an important part of his career goals. In fact, when he first joined the faculty of Emory University and of Louisiana State University, he was asked what he wanted to teach in his first semester. In both cases, he taught the honor’s Freshman chemistry course during his first semester at each institution. In terms of undergraduate awards, he was particularly honored to receive the year 2000 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching/CASE Louisiana Professor of the Year Award for undergraduate teaching.  His accomplishments in undergraduate education can also be examined through the conduct of his research program since he considers his research to be an integral part of his teaching and educational responsibilities. This is because he believes that teaching students how to do research is a form of education. In fact, he believes that it is the ultimate form of education since it involves the discovery of new knowledge, i.e. knowledge not found in textbooks. Three key points that reflect his educational philosophy are outlined below.

  • His research group has always involved a large number of undergraduate students. More than 300 undergraduates have passed through his laboratory over the past 30+ years. Many of these undergraduates have gone on to pursue advanced training in chemistry, medicine, and law. He indicates that he has always enjoyed working with undergraduates since he enjoys their excitement when they first see their names indelibly printed as co-authors on a manuscript in a major research journal.
  • Through his mentoring and teaching efforts, Professor Warner has inspired many of his undergraduate students to achieve great success. Three examples are cited here as references: 1) Dr. Anthony Prenni (Caucasian male) of Emory University has completed his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder; 2) Ms. Ebony Spikes (African American Female) was selected as the second Marshall Scholar ever from Louisiana State University and has completed her Master’s in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Her previous two years in the UK resulted in a B.A. in Psychology-Physiology- Philosophy at Oxford University; she is now applying to medical school for an MD/PhD; 3) Dr. Sally Mathison (Caucasian Female), a single parent, received her Ph.D. in chemistry from Auburn University and is now an environmental chemist for Los Angeles County, California. In all three cases, these students have identified his mentoring efforts as the factor that made the difference in their achievements.
  • Professor Warner’s undergraduate and graduate students are widely sought after for employment.  Employers always cite the same four reasons as to why they believe his students are well trained: 1) His students have excellent written and oral communication skills, 2) They are quite  versatile in research, i.e. can change research directions without inhibition, 3) They are able to adequately conduct research within the context of a group project and 4) they display excellent supervisory skills which are learned as graduate students.  Another important component of Professor Warner’s research accomplishments is the cultural diversity of his students over his career.  One-third of the PhDs graduated from and / or graduate students currently in his group (60 total) are African American.  In addition, one of his former PhDs is Native American and another is Hispanic. A little more than half of these graduate students are women. Thus, the Warner research group contributes to the production of under-represented populations in the sciences, i.e. minorities and women.

Selected Honors:

SEC Professor of the Year (2016), American Academy of Arts and Sciences Member (2016), Iddles Lectureship (2015 ), Henry Hill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Professionalism (2014 ),  ACS Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in Chemical Sciences (2014), ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry (2013),  Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS) Fellow (2010), American Chemical Society Fellow – Inaugural Class (2009), ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry Award in Spectrochemical Analysis (2008), Association of Analytical Chemists (Anachem) Award (2007), Southern Chemist Award, ACS Memphis Section (2006), Marquette University, honorary Doctor of Science degree (2005), Charles E. Coates Award – ACS local section (2005), Tuskegee University  George Washington Carver Achievement Award (2005),  University of Washington, College of Arts & Sciences, Distinguished Alumnus Award (2004),  Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (1997).


Professional Positions (for past ten years):

2002-present Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, Louisiana State University; 2001-present Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, Louisiana State University; 2000-present Boyd Professor of LSU System, Department of Chemistry, Louisiana State University; 1992-present Philip W. West Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Louisiana State University


Member Organizations:

American Chemical Society (ACS), National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS), Sigma Xi (Scientific Research Society), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), New York Academy of Sciences, American Association of University Professors; American Nano Society