Susan V. Olesik

    November 2008:

    Unlike many prominent chemists who cite the influence of their high school chemistry teacher in stimulating their interest in science, Susan Olesik was inspired by her peers who wore distinctive decorations indicating they were members of an honor society. That caused her to focus on improving her grades and that is what started her down the path to science.

    Susan OlesikSusan V. Olesik received her A.S. from Vincennes University, B.A. from DePauw University in 1977 and her Ph.D. in 1982 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working with James Taylor. She was also a postdoctoral fellow for Milos Novotny at Indiana University from 1982-1984 and for Tomas Baer at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill from 1984-1986. She has been a faculty member at The Ohio State University since 1986, being promoted to Associate Professor in 1992 and Professor in 1997. She was appointed Dow Professor in 2007.

    In 1987, she received the American Society for Mass Spectrometry Research Award; in 1990 the Eli Lilly Research Award; in 1998 a Commendation from NASA for work on Cassini-Huygen’s Probe; and in 2000 the AWISCO Woman in Science Award from the Association for Women in Science in Central Ohio. She has an extensive publication record, has served on numerous editorial advisory boards, as well as review boards. She is most known for work in two areas of separation science: Enhanced-fluidity Liquid Chromatography and Low temperature Glassy Carbon Chromatography.

    Most recently, her research has evolved to polymer synthesis in supercritical fluids, new separation science for highly complicated mixtures and the synthesis of carbon micron and nanoparticles and fibers.

    She has guided 17 students to their Ph.D.’s, 14 to their MS degrees and has had 23 undergraduates doing research in her lab. Currently she has 12 Ph.D. candidate graduate students in her lab.

    Susan OlesikIn 1999 Olesik visited her daughter’s class in elementary school and learned first-hand about the paucity of science in the curriculum. So she volunteered to work with her daughter’s teacher as a humble helper. One thing led to another, and soon others became involved starting, thereby, a science outreach program that came to be called, Wonders of Our World or W.O.W. Through the collaboration with elementary school teachers, the program: 1) enhances the science literacy of elementary students and elementary school teachers, 2) increases the science material that K-8 science teachers are comfortable presenting to their students, 3) increases the involvement of local scientists, parents and undergraduate science students in important community projects, and 4) generates a model that can be emulated elsewhere.

    W.O.W. finished its ninth year of operation in spring 2008. It serves over two thousand K-8 students every year through the strong efforts of more than 450 volunteer scientists. To date, the program has served over 10,000 elementary school students. The improvement in the students’ content knowledge through this program is well documented through significant improvement in standardized test data for all students. Also significant, however, is the positive impact of this collaborative effort on the K-8 teachers and volunteers.

    While scientists often prefer to shun the lime light, their enthusiasm for their profession should be shared with others. WOW is an example of how active scientists can support and augment K-12 science education on a continuing basis. Each and every one of us lives in a school district. Just knock on the door and offer to be a humble helper.


    –  Written by Peter Lykos