New director of Office of Undergraduate Research will encourage research opportunities

Dr. Jeremy Lessmann attributes career pathway to undergraduate research



Jeremy Lessmann, director for the Office of Undergraduate Research, works in his office, Jan. 19, at the Smith Center for Undergraduate Education.

JUSTIN WASHINGTON, Evergreen research editor

Jeremy Lessmann, clinical associate professor and academic adviser  for the department of chemistry, has recently been appointed to director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

“I was asked to take over from the previous director who is moving on to a new position,” Lessmann said. “I have been involved with activities that this office supports for years. It was sort of a natural thing for them to ask me to take over.”

He said he still manages his other duties on campus while transitioning into this role. He has been involved with the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) for 15 years.

“My office is responsible for the promotion and support of undergraduate research efforts across the university,” Lessmann said. “We’re interested in getting undergraduates involved in research.”

“Research” is a catch-all term, he said. The office supports not only research applicable to STEM or social science majors but also creative activities within the arts and humanities disciplines.

Lessmann said he wants undergraduates to get involved with research because it is one of the most high-impact practices a student can do.

As a freshman, Lessmann had his first experience with undergraduate research when the professor for his general chemistry course said he had openings in his lab. Lessmann participated in undergraduate research for four years, including summers, and said it helped direct his pathway.

“That really was one of the best things I have ever done,” he said. 

Once he became a faculty member, Lessmann said he helped his chemistry students start to get involved with research because its value is important for a scientist’s growth. 

“I’m going to be working to make sure that I’m involved in contacting folks on all the campuses that have opportunities for undergraduates to do research,” he said. “This is really useful and helpful for you in building those skill sets you’re going to need to take on to the next level.”

Lessmann is a popular mentor and adviser for students in the chemistry department and has encouraged undergraduate research since coming to WSU, Mary Sánchez Lanier, assistant vice provost for Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement, wrote in an email.

“As such, he is well qualified for the position based on both his credentials and his passion,” Sánchez Lanier wrote. “Perhaps, more importantly, he has a vision for what the future in undergraduate research could be for undergraduate students at WSU. His vision is well aligned with WSU’s scholarly and educational mission.”

Survey data shows one-fourth of seniors report engaging in research with a mentor, but there are always more whose education would benefit from the experience, Beverly Makhani, director of communications and marketing for the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement, wrote in an email.

Makhani wrote Lessmann is well-positioned to explain the opportunities and awards of undergraduate research.

“I am looking forward to helping Dr. Lessmann tell the story of undergraduate research,” she wrote.