Inter- and intramolecular forces help determine the shape and behavior of molecules. Using the gas-phase fire-suppressant molecules known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as model systems, my colleagues and I use laser spectroscopic techniques to probe the vibrational overtones of CH stretches and to learn about molecular structure and dynamics. We use ab initio computational chemistry to model these vibrations, and their impact on atmospheric chemistry. Working with Dave Richardson, we synthesize deuterated fluorocarbons; these isotopically substituted HFCs are used to test theories of hydrogen bonding and energy transfer.
The local environment provides many chemical research opportunities. Using the resources of the Environmental Analysis Laboratory on campus, I have collaborated on projects including studies of: lead in urban soils intended for community gardens, perchlorate ions in drinking water at the local high school, PCBs in the Hoosic River, and heavy metals in fish taken from local ponds.