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Joseph Keiser Receives Priestley Prize for Lifetime Achievement
3 June 2020

Earlier this month at the Department of Chemistry undergraduate commencement ceremony, the department presented the Priestley Prize for Lifetime Achievement to Teaching Professor Joseph Keiser—who is retiring this year—in recognition of his invaluable contributions to the department in the role of director of general chemistry labs and in the role of assistant head for undergraduate education over the past twenty-nine years.

Keiser came to Penn State in 1991 and has since overseen hundreds of sections of introductory chemistry lab courses and guided many students through the chemistry curriculum. In order to enhance these courses, Keiser developed a specialty section approach to general chemistry labs.  These specialty sections are smaller sections of courses that typically have high enrollments. The chemistry is set in the context of various themes, for example, biological chemistry, material science, environmental science, and food chemistry. Keiser is particularly proud of the food chemistry section that he created, which includes both lab experiments and edible experiments that are performed in a special teaching kitchen.

During his tenure, Keiser also oversaw the 2016 Whitmore Lab renovation project and served as a founding member of the Chemical Education Interest Group here at Penn State. This group involves faculty and staff who have a significant interest in improving the quality of undergraduate instruction and has met regularly since his arrival in 1991. He received the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society Distinguished Service Award in 1998 and the John Lowe Excellence in Teaching and Service Award in 2012.

Department Head Philip Bevilacqua noted during his address at graduation that Keiser has consistently demonstrated the qualities of selflessness, compassion, and integrity throughout his time at Penn State. “Joe doesn’t put himself above anyone else...he wants the best for the department, and this comes from a source of deep empathy,” Bevilacqua adds. “I hope that Joe knows how much the department values all he’s done for the department and for Penn State students over years. Joe, we all wish you the best in your retirement. I wish you many years of happiness with your family and your grandkids.”

The Priestley Teaching Prize was established in 2002 to recognize the best undergraduate teachers in the Department of Chemistry, as measured by the increase in learning and enthusiasm for the subject of the students in chemistry courses. The prize was formally presented to Keiser during the department’s virtual commencement ceremony.

Please join the Department of Chemistry in congratulating Teaching Professor Joe Keiser for receiving the Priestley Prize for Lifetime Achievement.