Bertram brings atmospheric expertise to chemistry

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Timothy Bertram had no qualms about trading the sunshine of San Diego for the snow and cold of Madison, even in the dead of winter.

"I was a Nordic skier well before I was a chemist," says Bertram, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's newest assistant professor of chemistry.

Bertram, who had already registered for February's American Birkebeiner ski race months before moving to Madison, joined the Department of Chemistry this month after working at the University of California, San Diego since 2009. His atmospheric chemistry research program complements the department's growing focus on sustainable and environmental chemistry.

The Department of Chemistry's Libby Dowdall asked Bertram about his work in atmospheric chemistry, his teaching approach and more.

Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: My group's current research efforts are focused on the study of chemical reactions and trace gas-exchange at atmospheric interfaces. What sets our group apart from others in the field is that we study reaction and exchange on atmospheric interfaces in situ, using a combination of field- and laboratory-based techniques for probing these interfaces (e.g., air-sea and air-particle) in their native states.

Q: What are your current projects?
A: Current projects in my group span from ship-based observations of air-sea exchange conducted in the north Atlantic Ocean to probing chemical reactions occurring on the surface of aerosol particles formed from biogenic processes to the development of atmospheric instrumentation for sensing the composition of the atmosphere on a wide array of spatial and temporal scales.

Q: What can students expect from you in class or in the lab?
A: Rigorous discussion of the underlying chemical processes that control macroscopic, real-world observable events. This may be a discussion of the role of heterogeneous catalysis in the destruction of stratospheric ozone or of the thermodynamic factors that control greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Q: What unique strength do you hope to bring to the department?
A: Beyond my extensive collection of Swagelok [fittings, valves, tubing, and gauges], perhaps my most significant contribution to the department will be a unique perspective on environmental chemistry that will help foster the new connections and collaborations between divisions required to address current questions in atmospheric chemistry.

To read the full interview, visit the Department of Chemistry website.