Inspiring the Next Generation: Dr. Isiah Warner
In July 2016, noted chemist, educator and nationally recognized “master mentor” Isiah Warner celebrated his 70th birthday with an education and research symposium that brought together colleagues, current and former students and many others wanting to celebrate the achievements of Bunkie, Louisiana’s native son. This celebration was befitting for such a highly regarded educator who has mentored hundreds of young scientists, many of whom have gone on to earn PhDs and establish successful careers of their own in academia, medicine and industry.
Warner’s path to chemistry began very early. At two years old, he often watched his family members pour liquid into a kerosene lamp. Innately curious, Warner wanted to learn more about the liquid that ignited the fire that lit his home, so he embarked on his first chemistry experiment. Warner found the liquid that was stored beneath the kitchen sink and drank it. Needless to say, this early experiment did not fare well. As a matter of fact, a brief stay in the hospital derailed his chemistry pursuits, that is until his parents gave him a chemistry set at 10 years old.
Today, Warner is an LSU Boyd Professor, the highest professorial rank at LSU. He is also the Philip W. West Professor of Chemistry, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and vice chancellor of research and strategic initiatives.
Warner is considered one of the world’s foremost experts in analytical applications of fluorescence spectroscopy. He holds eight U.S. patents that specialize in spectroscopy and span a variety of different research areas. His spectroscopy studies have become mainstays for many leading manufacturers of commercially available fluorescence in analytical measurements.
He is also the 2016 SEC Professor of the Year, has been elected to the American Arts of Sciences and was most recently named a National Academy of Inventors fellow. He has more than 350 refereed publications in a variety of journals relevant to the general areas of analytical and materials chemistry. He is also recognized for developing a mentoring strategy that gives students the support and guidance needed to help them successfully transition from high school to college and into doctoral programs. His nationally recognized and often replicated system has made LSU the top producer of women and African American PhDs in chemistry in the U.S.
In “Making Strides,” an article by Virginia Van Horne, Warner said, “Encouraging and working with students is what matters.”
Years later, he echoed this viewpoint during the College of Science’s fall 2016 ceremony where he provided the keynote address.
Warner told the graduates: “Mentors were in place for you along your journey; therefore, mentor and protect others along the way. In essence, make the world a better place for future generations.”
Warner is certainly doing his part to guide the next generation of scientists and he is encouraging LSU’s newest alumni to do the same.