Chemistry Faculty & Staff

Top Row: Amanda Mifflin,  Steven Neshyba, Megan Gessel, Heather Bailey, Jeff Grinstead
Middle Row:  Dan Burgard, John Hanson, Jo Crane, Stacia Rink, Jill McCourt
Bottom Row:  Luc Boisvert, Eric Scharrer, Holly Jones, Emily Tollefson

About the Department

The Chemistry Department offers a broad-based curriculum designed to meet the needs of a variety of students, from those taking only one or two chemistry courses in order to broaden their liberal arts background to those majoring in chemistry in preparation for a career in the chemical sciences. The department is approved by the American Chemical Society and offers degrees that are appropriate for students interested in careers in chemistry, medicine, dentistry, engineering, science teaching, or any other area where a scientific background would be valuable. Students are encouraged to consult with members of the department as they plan their undergraduate programs and to discuss career options in the sciences.

The expertise of the chemistry faculty covers all five major chemical sub-disciplines: analytical chemistry, biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry. In addition to core courses in these major areas, faculty members teach upper-level courses on a variety of special topics including atmospheric chemistry, computational chemistry, materials chemistry, organic synthesis, and environmental chemistry. Faculty members are also engaged in a wide range of research projects and all students seeking the BS degree participate in this research and produce a thesis based on their work.

In addition to being introduced to modern chemical knowledge and the role of chemistry in society, students in chemistry courses learn to think analytically and logically. As students move through upper-level courses, they develop the ability to critically assess work in the field and the attitude necessary to cope with the demands of independent inquiry.

Students completing a chemistry degree are able to:

  1. rationalize and predict chemical behavior based on chemical principles;
  2. apply laboratory methods to investigate chemical phenomena and synthesize compounds in a safe and environmentally responsible manner;
  3. operate modern analytical instruments and interpret the data obtained from these instruments;
  4. use computers for collection and analysis of chemical data and the modeling and visualization of chemical structures and properties;
  5. communicate effectively in both written and oral forms typical of the chemical literature and professional conferences;
  6. search and use the chemical literature.



The department of chemistry is excited to welcome Emily Tollefson to the department for the 2019-20 academic year.  Emily is a Tacoma, WA native and she stayed local for college, receiving a B.S. in chemistry from Pacific Lutheran University in 2011. She then pursued her Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of California- Irvine, completing her doctorate under the mentorship of Prof. Elizabeth Jarvo in 2016. Her dissertation research focused on stereospecific nickel-catalyzed cross-coupling reaction method development. During her time in graduate school, she became interested in the potential biological applications of the small molecules she was making and she decided to pursue a post-doctoral position in chemical biology. In 2016, Emily joined the lab of Prof. Erin Carlson at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities where she conducts research utilizing mass spectroscopy techniques to study how gold nanoparticles interact with proteins as well as the impact of battery material nanoparticles on the proteome of exposed bacteria. She is excited to join the faculty at the University of Puget Sound and return to Tacoma. Her research program will center on synthesis and biological interactions of bismuth nanoparticles and model organisms, and the use of nanotechnology in developing low-cost biosensors.  


Seven UPS Chemisty students went to Nanaimo, BC last week to attend the AWMA PNWIS annual environmental conference (Air and Waste Management Association Pacific - Northwest International section).  This conference of regional environmental professionals from industry, consulting, regulation, and academia also hosts a student competition at their conference called the Environmental Challenge (EC)
As a requirement of a 0.25 unit Experiential Learning course in Environmental Policy and Decision Making, two teams from Puget Sound attended and competed in the challenge.  Puget Sound won first and second place!  Ashley Mapile ’19 CHEMISTRY, Erin McMillan ’19, Amanda Cobb ’19, and Emma Sevier ’19 were on the first place team and won $1500, Rosie Rushing ’19 CHEMISTRY, Emma McAllister “20, and Lisa Grimm “20 placed second and won a $1200 award.  In addition to the competition, the teams attended many talks over the 3 days and networked with environmental professionals, including 2017 EC participant Haley Gray “18 (CHEM minor) who is now working for Jacobs (formerly CH2M) environmental consulting, a position that she was offered as a direct result of her participation in the conference last year.
Additionally, Rosie Rushing also presented an oral talk on her thesis research, “Wastewater-Based Epidemiology to Determine Temporal Trends in Illicit Stimulant Use in Seattle”.  There is a top student presentation award and this year Rosie tied for that top honor with a PhD student and received a $250 award!  


Please join us in congratulating Professor Gessel on this momentous achievement.


NSF has awarded Professor Neshyba a 4-year grant supporting research about ice.  Titled "RUI:  Toward a Comprehensive Theory of Mesoscopic Morphology of Ice", students involved in the project will create three-dimensional representations of ice crystals grown in a scanning electron microscope, model their light-scattering properties, and construct a theoretical framework for predicting how such crystals arise in cirrus clouds. 

Steven has received a two year NSF Research in Undergraduate Institutions collaborative grant award.  Titled Computational guided inquiry for incorporating polar research into undergraduate curricula.  This $300,000 grant Is aimed at developing teaching modules that incorporate polar research into a broad range of undergraduate courses, including Chemistry, Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, and Economics through the use of computational guided inquiry and classroom flipping.  Also involved in the project are Professor of Economics Lea Fortmann,  Dr. Penny Rowe, of the NorthWest Research Association, and School of Education Dean and Professor Amy Ryken.



Amanda Mifflin’s grant proposal, RUI: Influence of surface interactions of organic ligand-iron oxide/water interfaces on carbon and iron cycling studied by second harmonic generation and sum frequency generation spectroscopies, was funded for a three-year period in the amount of $209,663. This funding will allow Amanda and her students to continue surface spectroscopy studies on an important biogeochemical system.

Eric Scharrer’s grant proposal, RUI: Investigations of the cybotactic nematic phase in bent-core liquid crystals, was funded for a three year period in the amount of $124, 245. This funding will allow Eric and his students to continue their studies of the unique phase behavior of oxadiazole containing compounds.


The Chemistry department is receiving funds to purchase a new Quadrupole Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer from the National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Program.  The $350,000 award was received through a grant written by Megan Gessel and Dan Burgard to support research and advanced lab courses at the Puget Sound.