Chemistry Research at Otterbein

Student research is often published in professional journals and presented at off-campus meetings such as American Chemical Society National Meetings and the Annual Meeting of the Ohio Academy of Science. Students also have opportunities to participate in the research projects listed below.

Analytical Chemistry

Analytical Chemistry is the art and science of determining what matter is and how much of it exists. Dr. Joan Esson is advancing the science of chemical measurements in fields including clinical chemistry, environmental chemistry, and technical art analysis.

For example, current studies include:

  • Developing paper-based analytical devices for polyionic drugs such as the anticoagulant heparin;
  • Conducting studies of metals in sediments of Columbus area creeks to determine their impact on mussel populations;
  • Establishing methods to identify pigments and dyes in objects from the Frank Museum of Art at Otterbein University.

These projects are collaborative in nature and students will not only work with other chemists but also biologists and curators, and may also work in the field to collect samples in addition to the traditional chemistry laboratory.


Dr. John Tansey is conducting research focusing on the role that lipid droplet proteins (the PAT proteins) play in the metabolism of stored lipids. Nearly all cells store lipids (fats and cholesterol) for future use. We are currently investigating the function that the most recently discovered PAT protein (OXPAT) plays both on the lipid droplet and in the cytosol. This research has implications in the etiology of obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetes mellitus.

Physical Chemistry

Dr. Carrigan Hayes’s research involves the application of computational and physical organic chemistry techniques to the areas of biological, synthetic, and combustion chemistry. Her main projects focus on understanding the behavior of species involved in hydrocarbon and alternative fuel combustion, via both experiments and theoretical calculations. Students in Dr. Hayes’s lab have also used computational methods to explore reactions of interest to synthetic organic chemistry, in collaboration with Dr. Robin Grote.

Inorganic Chemistry

Dr. Dean Johnston is focusing on preparing and analyzing new metal-halide clusters. These compounds have fascinating electrochemical and photochemical properties. Some potential applications of these materials include use in organic light-emitting devices (OLED’s) and for the detection of oxygen via photochemical quenching of the excited state. In a separate project, students are looking at the preparation and structural characterization of ionic co-crystals (ICCs). These materials are of particular interest to pharmaceutical companies as they can help chemists create more stable and effective drug formulations.

Organic Chemistry

Dr. Robin Grote’s research focuses on the development of synthetic organic reactions, specifically the synthesis of heterocycles. These compounds are of interest due to the wide array of biological activity they can possess. Heterocycles are found in many of our pharmaceuticals and insecticides and can be synthesized by cyclodehydrating reactions. However, these reactions can be low yielding and utilize harsh or costly reagents. The Grote lab seeks to develop practical and predictable ways of synthesizing highly useful heterocyclic compounds.