Meet Professor Emeritus Isiah M. Warner

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Isiah M. Warner

Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
Former Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
Boyd Professor and Emeritus 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 380 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 nearly 44 years. This native of Bunkie, LA 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 76 graduate students (68 of whom have graduated with PhDs) 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, Stanford, 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 a few 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 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. Dr. Warner believes that teaching students how to do research is a form of education. In fact, he maintains 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 PhD in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder; 2) Dr. Alicia Williams (African American female) received her PhD in chemistry in the Warner Research Group, who became a GameChanger at Shell, (one in five in the world), a role in which she held for 4 1/2 years. She is currently the Supply Chain Lead New Energies Technology at Shell;  3) Dr. Sally Mathison (Caucasian female), a single parent, received her PhD 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 are African American. In addition, 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.

Professor Warner has conducted extensive educational research that focuses on mechanisms for maintaining and enhancing student education in STEM, with a particular emphasis on encouraging under-represented students (women and minorities) to pursue STEM terminal degrees . Through his leadership and mentorship, the LSU Department of Chemistry has become the leading producer of doctoral degrees in chemistry for African Americans in the U.S. and also lead in the percentage of women who receive PhDs. Prior to Professor Warner’s arrival at LSU, there were only six African American PhDs chemistry PhD graduates in its 150-year history. Currently, there are nearly 100. Under his direction, the LSU Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) generated nearly $50 M in grants in support of LSU students and faculty. OSI has provided mentorship and holistic development to countless numbers of students across ten programs from the high school to doctoral levels. Professor Warner retired from academia on December 31, 2021 but still supports various projects in an advisory role. 

Selected Honors:

Key to the City of Baton Rouge (2022), Nature Mentor of the Year (2019), Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2017), Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (2017), SEC Professor of the Year (2016), American Academy of Arts and Sciences Member (2016), Lifelong Dedication to Science, Education and Mentoring Proclamation by Governor John Bel Edwards (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), American Chemical Society Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students in the Chemical Sciences (2003), 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):

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, Louisiana State University (2002-present)
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, Louisiana State University (2001-2021)
Emeritus Boyd Professor of LSU System, Department of Chemistry, Louisiana State University (2000-present)
Emeritus Philip W. West Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Louisiana State University (1992-present)

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.

Professor Warner's Media Links