Redefining the Classroom

Barbara Keller, 2002 Recipient

Chemistry professor Barbara Keller received Lake Superior State University's Distinguished Teaching Award during annual commencement ceremonies on May 4, 2002 at Taffy Abel Arena.

It didn't take Barbara Keller PhD long to settle into her position as assistant professor of chemistry at Lake Superior State University.

She came to LSSU in 1999 from Montana to accept a job that she said she hoped would allow her to work more closely with students while continuing research in her field. Not only did she find what she was looking for, but she became an instant hit with her students and colleagues. Today, at LSSU commencement exercises, Keller's students and peers recognized her for her work by presenting the LSSU Distinguished Teacher Award to her.

"The Distinguished Teacher is always a member of the professorate who is not only an excellent teacher, but also demonstrates dedication and service to students," said Don McCrimmon PhD, LSSU executive vice president and provost. "Distinguished teachers have mastered the ability to explain often complex material and complicated concepts to their students. They are role models, demonstrating professional integrity and communicating the excitement of intellectual ideas to those they teach and to whom they are mentors.

"Dr. Keller displays all of these attributes and more," he added. "She is widely respected and admired."

"I am overwhelmed," Keller said upon taking the stage to receive the award.

She thanked her students, saying, "You're what makes my life complete. I've had a lot of jobs in different places but I've never had such a position as this. I love it and it's because of you. I've always wanted to teach. Lake State gave me an opportunity and I am so very grateful."

Keller's students and fellow professors lauded her for making herself available to them at all times, for working diligently and patiently with students who have trouble understanding material, and for being enthusiastic and passionate about her work.

One of her scientific colleagues said, "She has succeeded on a national level for the most competitive and hard-won grants."

Within the past year, Keller and colleague Rick Back PhD secured a $233,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to acquire an inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer. The instrument will be housed in a 'clean-room' facility in Crawford Hall, where Keller, Back and their students will use it to measure heavy metals at the part-per-trillion level of concentration from samples of water and sediments collected from the St. Mary's River. The clean room is being set up on campus and the instrument will arrive later this month. Students will take a class where they will be taught the theory behind the instrument, as well as how to operate it and use it for research.

Keller came to LSSU from Butte, Montana, where she was analytical division chief and assistant research professor with the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, a Montana Tech department with the University of Montana. She was also an inorganic research chemist with the bureau, and was a principal scientist with the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in Idaho Falls.

Keller has taught inorganic chemistry courses at University of Idaho - Idaho Falls and general and electrochemistry laboratories at Montana State University, Bozeman.

She earned a doctoral degree in analytical and inorganic chemistry at Montana State and three bachelor's degrees - in chemistry, medical technology and microbiology - from Idaho State University.

The distinguished teacher is chosen from nominations submitted by LSSU employees and students by a committee of the top graduating students and past-recipients of the award. The recipient is kept secret until he or she is named at commencement.