As SOP writing coach, Kier rejuvenates 60-year teaching/research career
By Lisa Crutchfield
After six decades as researcher and teacher, Lemont “Monty” Kier, retired medicinal chemistry professor and professor emeritus in VCU School of Pharmacy, is certainly entitled to some down-time.
But he’s not going to take it –- not at least for another decade or so, he says. The octogenarian still is passionate about his research and his latest way to help students: as a writing coach. “Being able to communicate is so important,” Kier says.
What started out as a bit of assistance to one graduate student spread to many — on both university campuses. Patricia Slattum, professor of pharmacotherapy and outcomes science and pharmaceutics, recalls talking with Kier last year about how she planned to focus on improving students’ writing skills, especially among those whose first language was not English.
“I said, ‘It would be great if they could have some one-on-one writing coaching – and you’ve published nine books and over 300 articles.’”
Kier enthusiastically agreed and went to work. “[Kier] got behind the group and embraced it,” says Slattum.
Kier found he really enjoyed the experience and volunteered to expand his informal program. He’s helped students with dissertations, theses, job searches … “everything but a letter to a girlfriend.” Students say his guidance has been invaluable.
“As an international student, writing is the most difficult thing that I faced during my studies,” says Danah Alsane, who completed her master’s degree at the school in December. “Sometimes, it’s very hard for me to explain my thoughts. Dr. Kier has been a great resource for me, as well as my colleagues, to guide us to the proper way for the scientific writing. In addition, he provides me with simple tips to improve my writing.”
Kier is renowned for his work in computational and mathematical approaches to drug design and his research into pharmacological interactions and molecular connectivity. His influence isn’t limited to the School of Pharmacy; he also teaches medicinal chemistry to nurse anesthesia students in the School of Allied Health Professions and maintains an office on the Monroe Park Campus to work with VCU Life Sciences students. Four years ago, he received a national award for teaching.
That teaching award validated what many students already knew: Kier is excellent at sharing his vast knowledge and enthusiasm. And now, with his gig as writing coach, he gets to pass on ways for students to share what they’ve learned.
“You might have a brain that’s incredibly rich in knowledge and information, and you might know practically everything there is to know,” he says. “But unless you can pass it on, it’s totally wasted. Communicating what you know, enriching somebody else’s brain, is so important.”
The opportunities to work one-on-one with students are what have kept him at the university well past a typical retirement age, he says. “VCU is so diverse, and the students are interesting. You see people from all over the planet.”
And being on campus also gives him the chance to continue his research. Currently, he’s exploring proton hopping and how water in the body transmits information to the nervous system.
His enthusiasm for his work, Kier says, comes back to one thing: “The principle reason we do science is because it’s fun.”
DID YOU KNOW?
In addition to the accolades Kier has garnered for his teaching and research, he’s also an acclaimed painter and penned VCU’s alma mater, “We Gather Here,” with his son. In Vol. 12, Issue 4 (2016) of Current Computer-Aided Drug Design, Guillermo Restrepo of Universitat Leipzig (Germany) and Universidad de Pamplona (Colombia) described Kier’s wide range of accomplishments in a series of interviews titled “Lemont B. Kier: Art, Science and Green Cheese.”