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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Singing Songs to the Earth

Former music major John Warner is now a leader in the field of Green Chemistry. A spark between Professor Anselme and Warner inspired him to move into the study of chemistry. After graduating from UMass Boston 1984, Warner went on to to study synthetic organic chemistry at Princeton University, and completed his dissertation in 1988 focusing on the development of cancer chemotherapies.

Warner missed the UMB Chemistry Department so much that he taught here part time upon returning to the Boston area to work at Polaroid, saying, “I was and still am very proud of the UMB Chemistry Department.” His experience at Polaroid, where he led a group of scientists in the development of a water-based process for film development that eliminates pollution-causing solvents, allowed him to learn about how chemistry is done in industry. “I was very lucky and had many of my inventions placed into products, so I got to learn a lot about manufacturing. It was at Polaroid that I combined medicinal chemistry with chemical manufacturing.”

After losing his son due to a failed liver transplant, Warner developed a passion for green chemistry, and wanted to do more with his talents. So, he applied to teach here full time. He was awarded a $350,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency with a Technology for a Sustainable Environment Grant, which helped him work toward his new goals.

Now chair of the Chemistry Department, Professor Warner developed the Ph.D. program in Green Chemistry and maintains a lab with 20 students. He is the External Advisor of the Australian Green Chemistry Center, serves on the Governor’s Science Advisory Board for Toxic Use Reduction, is the educational activities chair of Chemical Research Applied to World Needs, and is an editor for two chemistry journals. In his spare time, he delivers keynote addresses internationally, at conferences pertaining to Green Chemistry, and teaches a few courses here.

Prior to Warner’s extraordinary achievements in environmental education, John played in a band in the early 80’s with Nick Anastas, a Ph.D. candidate here in the ECOS department. During these musical journeys he met Nick’s younger brother Paul, also an alumni of the chemistry department at UMB. While John was developing environmentally sound solvents at Polaroid, Paul was working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as Chief of the Industrial Chemistry Branch. While Paul was developing the Green Chemistry program at the EPA, the two began “talking about ‘defining’ green chemistry, and putting together a set of principles that people could apply to organic synthesis and manufacturing processes.” From these discussions, they co-authored the book “Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice.”

Paul Anastas currently works in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the Executive Office of the President in Washington, D.C., where Kathie Olsen, speaker at the Science and Environment forum during Chancellor Gora’s inauguration, is Associate Director for Science. Paul serves in the National Security and International Activities Division where his responsibilities include strengthening the science and technology relationship between the U.S. and China.

With support from a grant from the EPA/NSF Partnership for a Sustainable Environment, a Green Chemistry Laboratory for Education and Research in Sustainable Development is now under construction. With this lab Dr. Warner plans to conduct original research in synthesizing environmentally sound chemicals to replace hazardous chemicals in industrial processes. In addition, Warner will help develop science curriculum for K-12 classes and promote undergraduate education using a hands-on approach at the bench.