Sarah Devan photo.jpgHow can we preserve the beauty of art? One answer is chemistry.

Today we interview Ecampus student Sarah Devan, an art and architecture conservator living in the Los Angeles area. She is currently working her way through our CH 121/122/123 general chemistry series.

Tell me more about your career in art and architecture conservation – what made you choose this path?

The traditional route to become an art conservator is generally to get an arts or art history degree, take some additional science courses, and then enter a 2-4 year art conservation master’s program (the length varies by school and internships). I came into this field through a slightly more circuitous route, but I’m finding that I’m all the better for it. I began by first going to architecture school. I quickly fell in love with historic architecture rather than new design, and went to work for a small architecture firm specializing in historic preservation. Hoping to expand on that career and grow into larger markets, I went to graduate school for historic preservation and continued to work with architecture firms doing larger and larger profile restorations. I became knowledgeable in repairing and restoring any number of materials including adobe, brick, stone, terra cotta, bronze and steel. Throughout that experience, I took the architect’s role, planning and directing the conservation efforts, but not performing the actual work. That was left up to the contractors. I wanted to know that side as well, so I took yet another career shift and began several internships in hands-on conservation work, with two art conservators and a books and paper conservator. Through these positions, I was introduced to an even larger variety of materials, both organic and inorganic, historic and contemporary. I am now working full time for a firm that allows me to draw on both sides of my experience, as an architect and as a conservator. And my non-traditional route to get here has been a huge benefit, becoming more of a generalist with some experience in all materials rather than specializing in one area. I’m now seeking to expand on that knowledge by going back to school yet again for the art conservation degree, and one day soon start my own firm.

How does our online general chemistry sequence relate to your goals?

I’m taking the online general chemistry sequence (and later organic chemistry), in part to fulfill the prerequisites for an art conservation master’s program, and in part to better understand the materials I work with on a daily basis. Even if I choose not to apply in the future, these courses have already helped me immeasurably. Chemistry is incredibly important in art and architecture conservation. The conservator has to have an understanding of the different materials, the way they behave (both by themselves and in relation to others), and how they deteriorate over time. We have to find ways to slow the inevitable decay—whether it’s from chemical changes, environmental impacts, or the human element—in order to preserve it for future generations. We regularly use scientific methods of observation, laboratory analysis, and experimental testing in the lab and in the field in order to develop the conservation treatments. It’s important to find treatments that can be reversible, or that have minimal impact to the artwork and can be re-treated in the future. Also important is to respect the artist’s original intent, which could even work against the goals of conservation (for example, if the artist wants the piece to decay over time). It’s fascinating stuff!

Some examples of our work, just to give you an idea, might include: deciding which type of solvent to use in order to clean and remove old varnish from a painting; or understanding how salts can migrate and recrystallize in masonry causing damage, and how best to remove them; or understanding the natural processes of bronze and copper in forming a surface patina, and whether they are protective, minimally corrosive, or potentially very damaging (causing pitting and surface loss).

What do you like most, or least, about our online classes? Do you have any advice for other online students?

I chose to take classes online largely due to my full-time work schedule. It was important for me to be able to study when I had time and at my own pace rather than taking a structured class two or three nights a week. The online format is really great for this. The OSU classes can be quite demanding in terms of the level of effort involved in order to keep up with the material. They are also quite comprehensive, and I’ve been impressed so far with how they are conducted. The professor and teaching assistants are approachable and quick to answer any questions I have. And the additional online resources, such as videos, have been very helpful for supplementing the material. The labs are pretty strange when you’re used to being in an actual lab environment, but they get the concepts across. They’re probably my least favorite part of the class. As for advice, I’m probably not saying anything new here. Time management and self-discipline are really key.

Is it difficult to find balance between work and online classes? What helps you achieve that balance (and perhaps relieve school stress)?

My work has been incredibly busy lately, so I’m finding it difficult to strike that balance between work and school right now. Fortunately my projects are so varied in scope, and I get to spend equal time between the field and the office, that it keeps me engaged and always learning something new. I could never be happy in a job where every day is the same routine. Right now I’m also taking a painting class (another prerequisite for the program), and it’s been a nice stress relief to do something creative and get out of my head for a few hours.


Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to share your story!

John Shelby is a high school Chemistry teacher in New York City. We asked John, “Why did you take an online class from OSU’s Chemistry department?

I am fascinated by the details of how the world works, and this is what led to my interest in chemistry. In my work as a naturopathic physician, I used knowledge about the composition and interaction of different compounds on a daily basis. When I decided to shift gears to devote myself to teaching high school in the poorest congressional district in the country, I was instantly drawn to teach chemistry. Sometimes it is hard to feel that I am making a difference, but every now and then a graduated student will return and tell me they have done well in their college chemistry class, thanks to what we studied together. That experience really goes a long way.

When I needed to accumulate a few more chemistry credits for my New York teaching license, I had a very difficult time finding classes to take. It was easy enough to find General Chemistry or Organic Chemistry being offered on evenings or weekends so that I could work around my teaching schedule, but more advanced classes did not seem to be available. For two years I tried to find courses that would satisfy the requirements, to no avail. I was very happy, therefore, to find Oregon State’s Ecampus Chemistry program. I had concerns about online classes because of a bad experience in the past, but after corresponding with Professor Lerner, I was reassured that his Inorganic Chemistry class would be different.

I was extremely pleased with the level and quality of instruction provided by Professor Lerner. In his classes, each lecture was available through audio download and the lecture slides were also provided. I found the course to be quite challenging and very interesting. I can honestly say that I see the world differently as a result of this sequence of classes. I ended up taking both CH 411 and CH 412 from Dr. Lerner.

Outside of teaching, I enjoy spending time with my wife Lucia and my cat Pushkin. I play guitar and harmonica and I really like spending time in Central Park.


Originally printed in Campus Technology 11/13/14

By Michael Hart

Oregon State University (OSU) is collaborating with a private partenr on a graduate-level course designed to help the students teach their own online laboratory science classes.

In the class, now offered online twice a year, students — most of whom teach online lab science classes themselves — work with a number of content delivery modes that include but are not limited to virtual labs, lab packs, kitchen science, data mining and field work, evaluating for themselves how the different modes work for the courses they teach.

eScience Labs, a company that provides customizable lab kits for online lab science courses at the university level, supplies lab kits, a set of hands-on experiments and curricular materials for the OSU courses titled “Instruments and Online Interactions in the Sciences.” The lab kits can be customized so that the students in the course can use them in the courses they teach themselves.  Read more…

ECampus Coordinator Kim Thackray and Dr. Jeff Gautschi at the UC Davis Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professions National Conference
ECampus Coordinator Kim Thackray and Dr. Jeff Gautschi at the UC Davis Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professions National Conference

Since Chemistry is The Central Science, students in a variety of majors need to take at least one class in Chemistry. This is especially true in the health professions—everyone from lab technicians to nurses to physical therapists to doctors—all need to have an understanding of chemistry. That is why Dr. Jeff Gautschi (OSU Cascades and Ecampus instructor) and Kim Thackray (Chemistry Ecampus Coordinator) had a booth at the UC Davis Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professions National Conference in early October.

At this conference, they had the opportunity to speak with many different types of students that could benefit from taking OSU Chemistry online—

-High school students who might want to begin their college coursework in Chemistry while still in high school.
-College students in California who may be having trouble getting in to the Chemistry classes they need in order to advance in their major.
-Post-bac students looking toward professional school—Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant, Medical school, etc.—who need chemistry as a prerequisite for their application.
-Pre-health advisors and advisors from community colleges.

The wide range of online Chemistry classes offered by Oregon State University can meet the needs of all these students and more; check out what we are offering this term!

Chemistry online?  How is that possible?  More and more students are finding that taking an OSU Chemistry class online is not only possible, but is a great way to meet the requirements of their degree program in a way that fits well in their life.

During the 2012/2013 academic year, students took more than 6600 credit hours of Chemistry classes online, second only to the Fisheries and Wildlife department in number of student credit hours.  Most terms, about 12 classes are offered, including 2 different series of General Chemistry and the complete Organic Chemistry series.  The CH 121/122/123 series is completely online, with the labs provided by OnLineChemLabs.  For the higher level classes, the labs are offered in a condensed format that make it easy for distance students to travel to campus for a short time (like a 3 day weekend) to complete their requirements.

Who are our students?  Our online instructors have students from all over the world, including students in the military in Afghanistan.  Our students include working people that want to complete their degrees, spouses of military personnel, stay-at-home parents, and many others.  Some on campus OSU students have found that taking their chemistry online fits well in their schedule as well.

If you are interested in learning more about online chemistry here at OSU, please check out our website, or email Kim Thackray at

NEW! OSU Press request for proposals to publish an open access textbook: OSU faculty are invited to submit a proposal to create an Open Access textbook. Sponsored by OSU Press and OSU Extended Campus, this initiative’s goal is to promote the creation and adoption of open educational resources on the OSU campus. More details can be found on the RFP. The deadline for submissions is Sept. 15.

If your memory of college includes trying to stay awake in large lecture halls, Cub Kahn has news for you. When he thinks about the future of higher education, he sees hybrids. Forget the cars that combine gas engines and electric motors. These hybrids are the latest in college courses. They enable students to learn via computer with online videos and activities that can be done at home or in the library or coffee shop. Hybrids meet less often in actual classrooms, but when they do, their sessions resemble hands-on workshops where students solve problems and apply their knowledge. Done well, hybrids can improve learning and help students get more mileage out of education.  More…

The Chemistry department believes that there is a population of potential students for the CH 12xe online series that we are not currently reaching—that of highly motivated high school students.  The Chemistry Department Advisory Board also emphasized the potential for this market during their annual visit.

In an attempt to reach these students, Chemistry Ecampus exhibited this April at the National Science Teachers’ Association (NSTA) National Conference in San Antonio, TX.  Dr. Marita Barth (Instructor) and Kim Thackray (Chemistry Ecampus Coordinator) staffed the OSU booth.  They talked with high school teachers from all over the nation, making sure the teachers understood how our online Chemistry classes could help their high-level students reach their educational goals.  Students who would benefit from taking our General Chemistry classes might be:

  • at high schools without chemistry classes or with limited chemistry offerings.
  • at high schools without AP (Advanced Placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate) chemistry classes.
  • at high schools that offer AP/IB classes, but students want/need flexibility, prefer the online mode, or want a college course in addition (summer prior to college).

Teachers were especially interested in learning that their students would pay in-state tuition for our online classes, no matter where they live.  Dr. Barth and Ms. Thackray talked with over 400 attendees of the conference, creating awareness of OSU’s online chemistry program and obtaining contact information from those most interested.  Ms. Thackray will continue to monitor student registrations to determine the effectiveness of this outreach.