Chemistry’s New Formula for Success

Dr. Michael Doherty, who has been an ESU employee for 25 years, recently became the new chemistry department chairperson. Photo Credit / Jessica Emley
Dr. Michael Doherty, who has been an ESU employee for 25 years, recently became the new chemistry department chairperson. Photo Credit / Jessica Emley
Dr. Michael Doherty, who has been an ESU employee for 25 years, recently became the new chemistry department chairperson.
Photo Credit / Jessica Emley

By Jessica Emley
SC Contributing Writer

Meet Dr. Michael Doherty, East Stroudsburg University’s new chemistry department chair.

Dr. Doherty, raised in Indianapolis, is the second of seven children. He enjoyed his childhood and his “wonderful, big, and joyous family.”

He attended an all male high school and received his undergraduate degree from Wabash College, another all male school in 1979.

While at Wabash, he double majored in both chemistry and music. Piano is his instrument of choice, and he even has a “gorgeous six foot Yamaha grand” in his living room.

Doherty obtained his Masters degree in 1982 from Indiana University. After graduate school, he taught at a two-year college: Vincennes University in Indiana.

Although he loved the experience of teaching and spent three years at Vincennes, there were no juniors and seniors and he “wanted traffic with the whole undergrad game: all four years.”

Consequently, he decided to go back to graduate school “and finish up that doctorate.”

He attended Purdue University, where he not only achieved all PhD requirements of chemistry, but he also met the cross disciplinary PhD requirements for Instructional Technology Specialist. He thus obtained one PhD, but fulfilled two separate department requirements.

“In addition to picking up my PhD at Purdue University, I also happened to meet the beautiful, lovely, charming Mary…with whom I have just recently celebrated my twenty-fifth anniversary,” said Dr. Doherty.

Mary Doherty is also a chemist who teaches at ESU.

Doherty called the summer of 1989 “a pretty hopping summer” during which he finished his thesis defense, had his wedding and honeymoon, and then moved to Pennsylvania to start teaching at ESU.

Dr. Doherty has been at ESU ever since, for a total of 25 years.

In terms of progress made, he said, “I was brought in back in 1989 with a particular couple of major missions. One of those was to design a cohesive and coherent lab design. When I came here, we had no stock room guy. There was no organization whatsoever of anything…it was pretty chaotic.”

When ESU hired Dr. Doherty, they said, “Make that change.”

Eventually, ESU hired a professional laboratory technician, Larry Beck, to continue the organization of laboratories on campus.

“The professional support that I have both from Larry Beck and Kathleen Curnoles, the department secretary, makes the work we do in the chemistry department possible. And when I came here, that wasn’t the set up,” said Dr. Doherty.

In addition, he was also hired to be the liaison to secondary education for all chemistry majors.

Dr. Doherty was asked if he had any proposed major changes to the chemistry department on the table.

He said the biggest issue is “thinking about down the road.”

Even though his department has not had retrenchments, it has had non-replacements.

He said, “Our faculty is below an optimal working compliment; that forces us to make choices about how we are going to spend our energies…if we keep shrinking and shrinking, we can’t get by.”

Looking into the future, Dr. Doherty said, “We are going to need to do some hiring if we are going to have a vigorous and strong chemistry department. That becomes truer as we look out not too far. No one has announced retirement, but I could have two or three retirements between this year and two to three years from now, on top of the previously un-replaced retirees and non-tenureds.”

He continued, “We are starting to have gaps, and more gaps are right on the horizon for us. Filling those with the right kind of people that can bring the energy and zeal and enthusiasm to those positions is going to have a lot to do with how strong we are four or five years out from now.”

When asked about the challenges of the chemistry department, Dr. Doherty said, “We all do consider class size and lab size to be a significant and real constraint on how well we are able to deliver instruction. Our priorities are always with honest and effective professional preparation of students. Those goals are always our goals.”

He then said, “The department is working eagerly to try and ensure that all student needs for lab availability are met and it is a challenging environment in which to do that.”

As far as maintaining academic experience for all students looking for a science education, he said, “as a department we want to serve in a timely, meaningful and professional way without short cuts.”

On the “day-to-day bit,” Doherty said, “It is quite a learning experience for me how many little issues can pop up in any given day and the challenge of keeping all the balls in the air at a time…there are a lot of balls to keep in the air in this kind of work!”

He then pointed out, “In our department we have things some other departments do not. Humanities departments will not have the same measure of instrumentation and lab supplies and gases coming in and out and balances breaking.”

Dr. Doherty wanted to personally thank his passionate and dedicated colleagues for all of their help and support.

He said, “The department chair gig will certainly become a big part of my life here, and it has been for the last three or four months.”

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