2022 University and College Teaching, Research and Mentoring Awards

May 31, 2022

Each year, LSU recognizes and awards faculty for their sustained dedication to research, instruction and service, at the University Faculty Awards Ceremony and the LSU College of Science Arthur R. Choppin Honors Convocation. The 2022 University Faculty Awards ceremony was on Wednesday, May 4, at the Lod Cook Alumni Center. The 45th Annual Dean Arthur R. Choppin Honors Convocation took place on Tuesday, May 3, at The Club at Union Square. Congratulations to LSU Chemistry faculty award recipients that were recognized for their extraordinary achievements and commitment to research, teaching, and mentoring.

Dr. Jayne GarnoProfessor Jayne Garno

College of Science Graduate Teaching Award

Since 2004, Professor Jayne Garno has taught CHEM 7750, Introduction to Surface Science, to graduate students from multiple disciplines, including chemistry, physics, engineering and agriculture. In this special topics course, students learn modern instrumental methods used for the nanoscale characterizations of surfaces. 

Garno employs experiential learning strategies in the course, in which students immerse themselves with hands-on activities with research instruments. As a result, students gain practical expertise in surface characterizations, optical microscopy and scanning probe microscopy, SPM. 

In addition to hands-on instrument experience, Garno teaches students to write journal articles as an active learning tool in the CHEM 7750 Surface Science course. Enrolled students write, edit and submit a journal article showcasing their knowledge in surface science. Recently, a team of eight graduate students published a mini-review article that was featured on the cover of ACS Omega in October 2021. A second publication from the special topics course was published in the ACS Journal of Physical Chemistry in January 2022.

Garno’s dedication to graduate student success also occurs in the research laboratory. For two days during each fall and spring semester, Garno opens her lab to students enrolled in CHEM 3493, Physical Chemistry Laboratory, allowing undergraduates to learn atomic force microscopy, AFM. The graduate students in her group are directed to learn by designing and teaching experiments using SPM research instruments to the CHEM 3493 students [video feature].  

“Professor Garno uses innovative strategies to bring students to the forefront of chemistry research, to provide lifelong skills in research and writing that are essential for a PhD career,” said Professor John A. Pojman, LSU Chair of Chemistry and William and Patricia Senn, Jr. Distinguished Professor. 

To date, Garno has graduated 21 PhDs and there are four PhD students and four undergraduates currently in her group. Her research focuses on developing SPM measurements with hybrid instrument configurations that can be applied for chemistry studies at the molecular level.

Dr. Kandace HurstSenior Instructor Kandace Hurst

College of Science Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award

Dr. Kandace Hurst joined the chemistry department in 2014 and has become a key member of the faculty. Currently, Hurst is a senior instructor and serves as the Director of Undergraduate Laboratories and the BIOS/CHEMIS Summer Bootcamp program.

Hurst is a recipient of the LSU College of Science Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award for 2022. The award recognizes Hurst’s outstanding mentoring of individuals from underrepresented groups.

“Kandace has become one of our most accomplished mentors. She has taken lessons from her own experiences, and supplemented them with her own creative insights, to guide many of our students to succeed in both their academic and personal lives,” said Associate Dean and Professor Andrew Maverick.

Hurst establishes a welcoming and inclusive environment inside the classroom and in her office. She emphasizes the importance of her approachability and availability for students. With her open-door policy, her office stays busy with students seeking chemistry assistance and impactful mentorship.

“Visibility is powerful when striving to serve minority students, as we are less likely to see and/or be taught by STEM professionals that look like us,” said Hurst. “I communicate my approachability by letting students know that I am available if or when they need help, sharing relevant information about my background and experiences on my path to and through STEM.”

As an advocate-mentor, Hurst validates student research interests, affirms their value to science, teaches self-advocacy and encourages research and/or teaching opportunities that will enhance the student’s career advancement.

“My approach acknowledges that minorities often need a different kind of support and I hope that my small contributions have a positive and lasting effect on the students’ path through STEM,” said Hurst.

Dr. KartikaProfessor Rendy Kartika

Dr. Marion D. "Soc" Socolofsky Award for Teaching Excellence

The Socolofsky Award for Teaching Excellence honors the legacy of the late Marion "Soc" Socolofsky, a fierce advocate for students at LSU and one of the College of Science's most influential leaders and educators. The award recognizes faculty members who embody pedagogic qualities that Dr. Socolofsky was known for, including strong teaching, mentoring and student experiences. 

LSU Chemistry's Director of Undergraduate Studies and Professor of Chemistry Rendy Kartika is the recipient of the 2022 Dr. Marion D. "Soc" Socolofsky Award for Teaching Excellence. 

Like Socolofsky, Kartika employs evidence-based teaching strategies that empower learners with skills and competencies to succeed in organic chemistry. In his CHEM 2262 Organic Chemistry course, Kartika creates a fun and engaging active-learning atmosphere in which he encourages student participation with the help of sweet treats.  

"Dr. Kartika did an exceptional job breaking down reaction mechanisms and carefully explaining each step in a logical manner," said biology senior Jeffery Lin. "He made sure that nobody was left behind."

Kartika also redesigned and upgraded the organic chemistry teaching laboratories to bring these courses to the national level of state-of-the-art instruction. He secured funding and purchased new chemical instrumentations, including six benchtop 60 MHz NMRs, six FTIRs, and two GCs. He also developed new experiments, such as extracting caffeine from tea leaves and identifying active components in OTC medicines, that provide students with hands-on experiences with modern technology to apply theoretical knowledge learned in the lecture course to real-world applications in the laboratory. 

"I found my passion in teaching and mentoring because of my professors in college and graduate school who provided me with amazing learning experiences," said Kartika. "As a faculty member at LSU, I am honored to have the opportunity to pay this forward to the next generation of students."  

Kartika joined the LSU faculty in 2011 and has established a successful and well-funded research program. His research group focuses on developing new organic synthetic reactions that generate complex molecular structures for potential applications in small molecule drug discovery. 

Kartika has graduated eight PhDs and two MSs and mentored three postdoctoral researchers. Seventeen undergraduate students also have performed research in his lab; many matriculated into PhD and health professional programs in various institutions across the country after graduating from LSU. Kartika is also the research mentor for 2022 Goldwater Scholar Cale Locicero.    


Dr. RagainsProfessor Justin Ragains

College of Science Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award

LSU Chemistry Professor Justin Ragains is the recipient of the 2022 Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award. The award recognizes the exceptional contributions of faculty that create diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments that also benefit members of underrepresented groups. 

Ragains employs teaching strategies to establish an overall inclusive learning environment in which all students perceive to be valued and able to succeed. Whether he is teaching CHEM 4562 Intermediate Organic Chemistry, Chemistry 2261 Organic Chemistry I, or CHEM 2262 Organic Chemistry II, Ragains leverages students' diverse strengths and brings them to the learning environment.  

He also advocates for metacognitive equity to minimize the gap between students who have acquired effective thinking and learning strategies and those who have not. Thus, Ragains teaches metacognitive learning strategies to students in his courses, improving classroom performance, retention, and graduation rates. 

"With the guidance of my teaching mentor, Dr. Saundra McGuire, I have championed the use of targeted metacognitive learning strategies, a scientifically substantiated approach to education, to teach students how to better understand their own learning processes," said Ragains. 

For his research laboratory, Ragains actively recruits underrepresented students in STEM. To date, 12 of his 44 mentees at all levels have come from minoritized groups within and outside the United States. Of the 44, 15 are women. Ragains maintains an open line of communication with his mentees with frequent check-ins to gauge their progress and where they may need extra support.

"I have found that giving my researchers the opportunity to talk about their struggles and listening with an empathetic ear is essential in building trust." said Ragains. "When you are willing to listen to minoritized people, you become aware of the injustices and, if you come from a place of privilege, you are forced to reckon with your past actions, thoughts, and assumptions." 

Ragains joined the LSU Chemistry faculty in 2010. His research group studies synthetic method development, total synthesis of natural products, carbohydrate chemistry, photochemistry, and surface chemistry.


Dr. Caroline SchneiderSenior Instructor Caroline Schneider

George H. Deer Distinguished Teaching Award

LSU Chemistry Senior Instructor Caroline Schneider received the 2022 George H. Deer Distinguished Teaching Award from the University College. The George H. Deer Distinguished Teaching Award recognizes faculty with a record of excellence in teaching at the freshman level at LSU. 

"I truly love being able to guide students in their discovery of the science of chemistry, because I value giving others ability to understand the world around them and, of equal importance, the ability to learn in a new way," said Schneider. 

Annually, Schneider teaches the fundamentals of general chemistry to over 800 undergraduates enrolled in her CHEM 1201 and CHEM 1212 sections. She fosters an inclusive learning environment by employing student-centered instruction. Through her ability to promote student learning and convey excitement related to course content, she enhances the student experience in a large classroom setting.

"It is important to me that students are given a genuine opportunity to approach the subject of Chemistry, without the hindrances that specialized language can sometimes present," said Schneider, "So, I find ways to use regular vernacular to illustrate concepts and define terms, so that the terminology that chemists use does not itself create barriers to learning, and thus allows the concepts themselves to be more accessible." 

In addition to utilizing adaptive delivery methods and notes, Schneider minimizes financial barriers that may hinder student learning by implementing a homework platform through LSU’s Learning Management System, Moodle, and incorporating a free, peer-reviewed Open Educational Resource textbook. 

"My end goal is to have students as intrigued and excited about Chemistry as I am, so I work to help get them there," said Schneider. 

Schneider received her Ph.D. in chemistry from LSU in 2013 and joined the LSU Chemistry faculty. Her exemplary teaching methods also earned her the 2020 Outstanding Instructor Award from the LSU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. When she is not in the classroom teaching, she enjoys reading about current trends and education issues, including effective teaching approaches and diversity, equity and inclusion strategies. 


Dr. SmithProfessor Kevin Smith

H. M. “Hub” Cotton Award for Faculty Excellence

LSU Chemistry Professor Kevin Smith, LSU Foundation James C. Bolton Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, has been named the recipient of the 2022 H. M. “Hub” Cotton Award for Faculty Excellence. 

The award recognizes a faculty member with a distinguished record of teaching, research, administration, public service, or any other outstanding contributions to the university.

Smith’s distinguished career began at the University of Liverpool as a Lecturer (1969-1977) and continued as a full professor at the University of California Davis, from 1977 to 2001, where he maintained a large research group and served several administrative roles, including Department Chair and Vice Chancellor for Research. 

In 2001, Smith came to Louisiana State University as Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Graduate School. He held those positions until 2005, and, throughout his time at LSU, he has been the LSU Foundation James C. Bolton Distinguished Professor. 

Smith established a successful porphyrin research program that has contributed to 798 peer-reviewed publications, 68 books, eight patents, and an h-index of 92 with more than 41,500 citations. He has mentored over 110 graduate students and 50 post-doctoral fellows in his chemistry laboratories at Liverpool, UC Davis, and LSU.

In his highly sought-after Chem 2461 and Chem 2462 Honors Organic Chemistry I and II courses, Smith provides an intensive but interactive introduction to organic chemistry. His extraordinary classroom teaching earned him a 2016 Tiger Athletic Foundation Undergraduate Teaching Award. 

Smith is also the recipient of the Robert B. Woodward Lifetime Achievement Award in Porphyrin Chemistry (ICPP-4, Rome, Italy, 2006) and the Alfred Bader Award in Bioinorganic or Bioorganic Chemistry (ACS National Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009). In 2014, he was honored at the 8th International Conference in Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines (ICPP-8) in Istanbul, Turkey, for his contributions over the past 50 years as a teacher, mentor and researcher. Most recently, Smith received the 2018 Florida Award of the American Chemical Society for his leadership and contributions toward the advancement of the profession of chemistry.