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Wei Kong standing in front of a white wall.

Wei Kong, the new head of the Department of Chemistry

By Tamara Cissna

Wei Kong, professor of chemistry and the new head of the Department of Chemistry.

The College of Science is pleased to announce Wei Kong as the new head of the Department of Chemistry, effective February 1.

“I am delighted that Dr. Wei Kong will lead Oregon State’s chemistry department,” said Roy Haggerty, dean of the College of Science. “She brings to the position deep research experience in physical chemistry, a strong commitment to strengthen chemistry education at Oregon State, and a drive to enhance the department’s climate. I look forward to working with her on the College’s leadership team.”

Kong is currently professor of chemistry. She received her bachelor's in science from Beijing University and her Ph.D. from University of Waterloo in Canada. Following a postdoctoral fellowship from Cornell University, she joined the Department of Chemistry in 1995 and was promoted to professor of chemistry in 2005.

“My vision is to create a rising tide where we help each other to reach our highest potentials.”

“I look forward to working with the department in my new role and will work diligently to increase the growth of our chemistry community’s research, education and outreach programs,” said Kong. “My vision is to create a rising tide where we help each other to reach our highest potentials.”

Kong has published 75 peer-reviewed papers. She has mentored 11 Ph.D. students and 7 postdoctoral fellows. She has received $4.8M in national funding from NSF, NIH, NASA, ACS PRF and Murdock, and $1M from state and institutional funding from ONAMI, Oregon State, the College of Science, and Kelly Family Fund. Recently, Kong won a College of Science 2021 SciRIS grant along with statistician Lan Xue to develop more effective mass spectrometry through inclusion of electron diffraction. Earlier in her career, she received one of College of Science’s top research accolades, the Thomas T. Sugihara Young Faculty Researcher Award, the Alfred P. Sloan fellowship, and the NSF CAREER award, which recognizes young faculty who have the potential to revolutionize their fields of study.

Kong’s research focus is on developing a method that addresses a great challenge in the scientific world – obtaining high-resolution atomic structures of biological macromolecules and nanomaterials. The Kong Research Group aims to overcome the limitations of current structure techniques, such as x-ray crystallography and cryoelectron microscopy, by developing a new method called single-molecule serial electron diffraction imaging. The method combines cutting-edge technologies such as superfluid helium droplets in physical chemistry, electrospray spray ionization in analytical chemistry, and Fourier transform optical imaging in physics, to obtain diffraction images of molecules oriented by a laser field and a pulse electric field. Ultimately the diffraction images from all orientations are used to solve structures of proteins and nanomaterials, without the need of crystals or high purity samples.

Mike Lerner announced this summer that he would step down as head of Chemistry and retire from OSU at the end of January. He is moving to a position with Ford Motor Company as a chemistry expert for their EV battery development.

As head of Chemistry since 2017, Lerner expanded Chemistry’s Ecampus offerings, maintaining Oregon State’s position as the national leader in online chemistry education. In this time, he also worked with Ecampus to move virtual general chemistry labs to an OSU platform where it is free for students in our courses. He also led a campaign to upgrade Chemistry’s advanced teaching lab instrumentation via fund-raising and grants; oversaw important opportunity hires, including three new tenure-track faculty (with one more search currently underway); and successfully led the department in its mission during the COVID-19 pandemic and through the challenging climatological events of the last two years.

I am very grateful to Mike Lerner for his service to the department as head over the last four years,” said Haggerty. “I am indebted to him for his highly capable leadership, and I admire his many contributions as highly respected OSU researcher and teacher of 33 years,” said Haggerty. “I also want to thank Steve Giovannoni, head of Microbiology, and the search committee members for their efforts in this hire.”