Skip to main content

Joe Keiser

Emeritus, Teaching Professor


Professional Appointments and Affiliations

Teaching Professor Emeritus

Director of the General Chemistry Labs


213 Whitmore Laboratory
University Park, PA 16802


B.S., St. Lawrence University, 1974

Ph.D., University of Rhode Island, 1981


Applied Spectroscopy, Chemical Education

Dr. Keiser's research background is in the use of spectroscopic methods to characterize surfaces. For example, Dr. Keiser has worked on a project with NASA to develop a method to remotely and quantitatively determine the thickness of ice films on the space shuttle's external fuel tank. This tank is filled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen; therefore, condensation of water vapor from the air can and does occur. Because of the possibility of damage to the shuttle by flying ice chunks, any launch will automatically be aborted if the ice is thicker than 1/8". Currently, remote sensing is done with a TV camera coupled to a thermal imaging device. This device is capable of identifying the presence of ice, especially if it is covered with a layer of frost, but it has difficulty identifying transparent ice and is not capable of determining the thickness of ice in any case. Thus, there is a need for developing a technique for measuring the thickness of frost/ice on the tank surfaces. Dr. Keiser has studied the feasibility of using near infrared diffuse reflectance spectroscopy to solve this problem. The laboratory experiments have investigated the reflectance of near-infrared radiation from ice films of different thicknesses and morphology. The final system envisioned would involve a near-infrared beam, which would pass through the ice film and reflect off the surface of the tank. The scattered light would be remotely collected and analyzed to determine the thickness of the ice film.

Dr. Keiser's current research interests pertain to chemical education. As director of the General Chemistry Laboratories, Dr. Keiser has the responsibility to decide what are the most effective ways of using laboratory time to communicate the principles of general chemistry. Clearly, the laboratory is a "hands-on" time for students. But what is the most effective way to make use of that time? Are computer-simulated experiments an appropriate way to teach part of the lab course? To what extent should the time be divided between quantitative work and qualitative "descriptive" chemistry? To what extent should general chemistry experiments be "cookbook" as opposed to more exploratory work? These issues are under investigation in a continuing attempt to make the General Chemistry Laboratory the best learning experience possible.

Selected Publications

S. Thompson - author; J. T. Keiser - editor, Penn State Version of Chemtrek, Published by Penn State under license from Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ (2000).

L. M. Egolf and J. T. Keiser, Photon Initiated Hydrogen-Chlorine Reaction, J. Chem. Edu., 70(8):A208 (1993).

J. T. Keiser and B. T. Upchurch, Characterization of the Surfaces of Platinum/Tin Oxide-Based Catalysts by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), Proc. of the Intl. Conf. for Long-Life CO2 Lasers, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, October 17-19 (1989).

C. P. Booker and J. T. Keiser, The Modification of Alumina by Reaction with Rh3+, Chemically Modified Surfaces,Vol. 3, Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, Proc. of the Chemically Modified Surfaces Symposium, Midland, MI, June 28-30 (1989).

C. P. Booker and J. T. Keiser, The Reduction of Rh3+ on Supported Rhodium Surfaces by CO, J. of Physical Chemistry , 93(4):1532 (1989).

P. B. Merrill and J. T. Keiser, Attenuated Total Internal Reflectance Infrared Spectroscopy (ATR) of Organosilane Films on Polyethylene, Chemically Modified Surface, 1Vol. 2, Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, Proc. of the Chemically Modified Surfaces Symposium, Fort Collins, CO, June 17-19 (1987).