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Creator of forensics program, "Dr. Nathan," retires

12/19/2007 —
Chemistry professor who established forensic science courses retires
After 39 years, Dr. Nathan Viswanathan departs Penn State Fayette

As the 2007 fall semester ends, retirement begins for a chemistry professor at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus who shared his love of science with students young and old. Dr. Nathan Viswanathan marked his 39th year as a faculty member in the Chemistry department at Penn State in September.

Born and raised in India, Dr. Viswanathan—called Dr. Nathan by his students—earned his bachelor’s of science degree in India in 1958. In 1962 he moved to the United States to continue his education, and received his master’s of science in nuclear chemistry from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in 1964. He completed the requirements for a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University and began teaching at Penn State Fayette four years later, in 1968.

One of Dr. Viswanathan’s chief accomplishments at Penn State was single-handedly developing the forensic science program at Penn State Fayette. The courses in the program provide hands-on learning for students who—using principles of chemistry, biology, physics and statistics—carry out analysis of drugs, DNA and gun-shot residues, match spent bullets with shells, and tackle a variety of other crime scene investigation activities.

For a number of years, Dr. Viswanathan served as director of the Pre-freshman Enrichment Program at Penn State Fayette. This summer program was aimed at Fayette County sixth-through-ninth grade students who showed aptitude in science and mathematics.

During the 1990s, Dr. Viswanathan designed and carried out science and mathematics workshops for the teachers of Connellsville and Albert Gallatin Area School Districts through his “Science-Mathematics Resource Center,” which he founded.  

He also was a Boy Scouts of America Explorer’s Merit Badge Counselor for Explorers pursuing merits in nuclear chemistry and environmental science.

This past summer Dr. Viswanathan was an instructor for “SciTech Forensics: Learning Science through Math and English,” a new initiative of Penn State Fayette that focuses on improving learning for high school students in Fayette County.

In addition to his various pursuits as an educator, Dr. Viswanathan has been involved in research in the areas of metallic bonding, liquid crystals, flue gas clean-up, and water pollution control.  He has received awards for scholarly excellence, teaching excellence, and public service excellence, and he is a member and office holder of several professional chemistry organizations.

Dr. Nathan Viswanathan

Dr. Nathan Viswanathan (left) inspires young high school students to learn about chemistry and science at “SciTech Forensics: Learning Science through Math and English.”

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