PSU chemist receives award

PSU chemistry professor Carl Wamser was honored with the “Outstanding Scientist 2002” award from the Oregon Academy of Science. Wamser, who has been a teacher for over 32 years, was nominated by his peers from PSU.

“I will put it on the shelf with my other awards,” Wamser joked. “It’s a very nice acknowledgement of my colleagues that they think I am doing good work, especially lately because it has been a hard year.” Wamser recently lost his wife and has three kids to parent.

The annual award is received by an Oregon scientist who has been nominated based on an accumulated body of work. Wamser, who graduated from Brown University, received a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology and did postdoctoral work at Harvard, has done “a lot of different things which include the basic faculty things.”

He teaches organic chemistry, has developed a large Web site that incorporates innovations in teachings, is published in many journals, has written two chemistry textbooks and does research work.

At PSU Wamser started what is known as the “Wamser Research Group” which is a collaboration of students, both graduate and undergraduate, that studies solar energy.

Recently he received a small grant from NASA known as the NOVA grant (NASA Opportunities Visionary Academics), which allowed Wamser to develop a summer solar energy course and purchase solar panels. The panels now reside on the roof of Science Building 2.

“Students [of the research group] were allowed firsthand experience with solar energy,” Wamser said.

The February award ceremony was held at Pacific University in Forest Grove and was part of an annual gathering of the Oregon Academy of Science. In a five-minute speech, Wamser thanked his students who “make the work so much fun.” He said that his father and his teachers were also very influential to him.

Wamser admitted that he has always liked to work with science. “As a child I visualized being a chemist because I saw my father enjoying it,” he said.

Next year Wamser will be taking a sabbatical to evaluate what to do next in his career. “I don’t want to retire for at least a dozen or so years and I want to use the sabbatical to go back and explore the frontiers of research. I do expect to spend some time at Cal Tech and maybe some other places,” he said.

Wamser’s most recent grant was from NASA and is known as the NOVA grant (NASA Opportunities Visionary Academics). The grant allowed Wamser to develop a summer solar energy course and purchase 1-killowatt solar panels, which now reside on the roof of PSU science building 2.