Fall 2021 updates from Department Chair Mark Baskaran

Dr. Baskaran

Dear alumni and friends of WSU Environmental Science and Geology,

Greetings! Lots of things have happened since our last newsletter in fall 2019. The Coronavirus outbreak in March 2020 led to the closure of most of the educational institutions in Michigan, including Wayne State, resulting in the transition from in-person to virtual classes. In fall 2021, approximately 50% of courses started in person. The pandemic, unfortunately, continued to limit most of our field activities. Nevertheless, I'm very proud of our perseverant students for being Warrior Strong and working towards their degrees during this difficult time.

The Environmental Science Program joined the former Department of Geology, and subsequently, we changed our name to the Department of Environmental Science and Geology starting in fall 2020. The Environmental Science program began in 2003, and its courses have been taught by faculty from the Geology and Biology departments. Currently, Dr. Donna Kashian serves as Director of the Environmental Science program, with joint-appointment in our new department. In this fall 2021 semester, we have 140 undergraduate majors in Geology and Environmental Science, and 81 majors have graduated in the last three years. In addition, we established an online master's degree in environmental science, in April 2021, with a rigorous course-work based curriculum.

The department has stabilized, and we currently have seven full-time faculty members, the largest number over the past four decades. The latest addition is Dr. Zhijiang Lu, who joined us in six spring of 2021. His primary area of research is on the fate of organic pollutants in natural and engineered environments. The momentum to build a more robust department is continuing, with new initiatives in creating minors in Geophysics, Geochemistry, and Environmental Science, among other things. The scholarship of the department is substantial, with external research funding (currently, three faculty have ongoing NSF funding) and publications in high-impact factor journals. In the past three years, seven graduate students have completed their master's degrees under the mentorship of the Geoscience faculty.

Our faculty continues to do very well in teaching and mentoring our students. Dr. Jeffrey Howard retired in August 2021, after 34 years of service to the department. Our students and the department have well recognized his passion for teaching. John Zawiskie passed away in September 2020. John was a very passionate and excellent teacher. He joined the Department of Geology at Wayne State as Assistant Professor (tenure track) in 1983 and continued until 1986. During this time, Professor Zawiskie served as research adviser to 3 M.S. students and mentored them to their graduation. In 1987, he joined the geology department as adjunct faculty and continued in that position until winter 2020. A memorial service was held in December 2020 to honor John's life and legacy.

In summary, the Department of Environmental Science and Geology is continuing upward in its trajectory. We would like very much to give you a tour of our department if you are coming this way. We would love to add a section on Alumni updates in our newsletter. Please keep in touch, and let us know how and what you are doing from time to time. Please update your contact information to be sure you receive correspondence from the Department of Geology and Environmental Science and the university.

With very best regards,

Mark Baskaran, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Environmental Science and Geology

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