Ruth Varner Named Director of the Joan and James Leitzel Center

Ruth Varner Named Director of the Joan and James Leitzel Center

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ruth Varner has been named the incoming director of the Joan and James Leitzel Center for Mathematics, Science and Engineering Education.  Her appointment begins August 19.

Julie Williams, senior vice provost for engagement and academic outreach said, “I am simply delighted that professor Ruth Varner has accepted my offer to serve as the incoming director of the Joan and James Leitzel Center.  Ruth will bring significant strengths and unique experiences to the Leitzel Center that will help take us to the next level of excellence. She has served as a faculty fellow in the center for several years and is a collaborative and visionary thinker. As a scientist, professor Varner has built significant relationships within the STEM education community at UNH and with scientist locally and internationally.”

"I am also delighted to see professor Varner becoming director of the Leitzel Center. She brings incredible talent and dedication to this position. I have known for some time that she is one of the best multitaskers we have at UNH, and her dedication to student learning within and outside the classroom is already a thing of legend around here," said Samuel B. Mukasa, dean of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and the Eric J. Essene Professor of Geochemistry.

Williams said, “Ruth is a significant role model and mentor to graduate and undergraduate students who has been nominated by her colleagues nationally for her preeminent role.  We are also nominating her for a Presidential Award for STEM mentoring at the National Science Foundation.

Added Julie Bryce, chair of the Earth Sciences department, "Ruth has already demonstrated her commitment to the Leitzel Center by substantively contributing to projects for many years, and it will be exciting to see her take the helm of the Leitzel Center and continue to advance STEM education." 

Varner holds a master's degree in hydrology (’93) and a Ph.D. in geochemical systems (’00). Her research experience at UNH began with developing a gas chromatography/cryo-focusing technique to quantify methyl bromide in ambient air samples. This work led to the discoveries of soil as a significant biological sink of atmospheric methyl bromide, and of freshwater wetlands as a source of methyl bromide and methyl chloride to the atmosphere.

Varner is an associate professor in the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space (EOS) and in the department of Earth sciences. Currently, her research focus is on the measurement of trace gas emissions from agricultural and wetland ecosystems with funded projects from the USDA, USGS and NSF. Varner also directs Northern Ecosystems Research for Undergraduates program, an NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates site.

“Becoming the director of the Leitzel Center is an exciting opportunity for me to combine my commitment to STEM education and my research in the geosciences. I look forward to taking on this leadership role as we as a nation and a state struggle with a shortage in STEM teachers and professionals,” Varner said.