California State University, Long Beach
Professor of Physical Chemistry
For more than 18 years, Stephen Mezyk, Ph.D., has taught chemistry to CSU Long Beach undergraduates and graduate students. But that description alone could never suffice for those who know Dr. Mezyk and his profound dedication to student success.
During his time at CSULB, Mezyk pioneered a program that includes advisement, early assessment, active learning, supplemental instruction, participation in research and publication, and continuous mentoring that has led to real and dramatic results for students.
His innovative approach to science education has resulted in 164 student co-authors on 141 peer-reviewed publications and 317 student co-authors on more than 300 conference presentations. Four of his students have been named as Outstanding Graduates of the CSULB College of Natural Science and Mathematics in the past eight years alone (about half of all awards given).
Mezyk is also that rare breed of educator who inspires students in ways they don’t forget. Amid myriad awards, he has received the CSULB Alumni Association Award for most valuable professor four times.
But it is in his research group of 10 to 15 students—three-quarters of whom are underrepresented in STEM—where Mezyk’s impact can most clearly be seen. Research topics are as varied as increasing scientific understanding of cancer-causing chemicals; how radiation affects the process of recycling nuclear waste; and how to salvage water contaminated by chemicals or dangerous microbes.
Many of Mezyk’s students are funded through grants he has secured and through grants students themselves write under the professor’s guidance.
Every semester for the past six years, he has also acted as advisor to multiple sections of the Freshman Experience Success class. His goal? To increase students’ awareness of their options for careers in science and math.
While courses in CSU Long Beach’s General Chemistry sequence typically had a 50 percent combined failure and withdrawal rate, Mezyk’s innovations have lowered that rate by 30 percent, while grades increased by up to 15 percent.
“Student success is at the heart of all of Dr. Mezyk’s work,” writes CSULB president Dr. Jane Close Conoley. “He has created a unique pathway for students to persist and excel in science majors and distinguish themselves after graduation.”
Mezyk earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry and a B.Sc. in chemistry at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia.