Department of Chemistry

College of Letters & Science
Brian Esselman

Email address: besselman@chem.wisc.edu

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Assistant Organic Lab Director

B.S. 2000, UW-Madison (Chemistry)
M.S. 2004, UW-Madison (Educational Psychology)
M.S. 2009, UW-Madison (Chemistry)
Ph.D. 2012, UW-Madison (Chemistry)

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Research Description

Rotational Spectroscopy

I am interested in the precise structure determination and millimeter-wave spectroscopy of small oxygen- and nitrogen-containing organic molecules of potential astrochemical relevance.  In parntership with Robert J. McMahon and R. Claude Woods, recent work includes the precise structure determination of hyrazoic acid (HN3), pyrimidine (meta-C4H4N2), and pyridazine (ortho-C4H4N2) by combined millimeter-wave and coupled-cluster computational investigation.  Additional spectroscopic investigations of carbonyl diazide (OC(N3)2), formyl azide (HCON3), and diketene (C4H4O2) in the ground and excited states have been published.

Curriculum Development

I am interested in the incorporation of computational tools to support student learning in lecture and laboratory courses.  With Nicholas J. Hill, I have integrated computational chemistry into the undergraduate organic laboratory curriculum using WebMO.  The use of computational tools, in partnership with more traditional spectroscopic techniques, allows students a deeper understanding of their experimental results.  I'm further interested in exploring how a focus on molecular and atomic orbitals using WebMO can enhance student learning in my lecture courses.


Awards and Honors

Harvey Spangler Award for Technology Enhanced Instruction, College of Engineering 2017
Early Career Award, College of Letters & Science 2017
Taylor Teaching Award, Department of Chemistry 2017

Selected Publications

Zdanovskaia MA, Dorman PM, Orr VL, Owen AN, Kougias SM, Esselman B, et al. Rotational Spectra of Three Cyanobutadiene Isomers (C5H5N) of Relevance to Astrochemistry and Other Harsh Reaction Environments. 2021;143:9551-9564.
Esselman B, Hill NJ, Ellison AJ. An Improved Mechanistic Interpretation of the Acid-Catalyzed Dehydration of Methylcyclohexanols. Journal of Chemical Education. 2021;98:3218-3225.
Esselman B, Zdanovskaia MA, Adkins TK, Billinghurst BE, Zhao JB, Woods RC, et al. Millimeter-wave and infrared spectroscopy of thiazole (c-C3H3NS) in its ground state and lowest-energy vibrationally excited states (v(18), v(17), and v13). Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy. 2021;379.
Owen AN, Zdanovskaia MA, Esselman B, Stanton JF, Woods RC, McMahon RJ. Semi-Experimental Equilibrium (r(e)(SE)) and Theoretical Structures of Pyridazine (o-C4H4N2). Journal of Physical Chemistry A. 2021;125:7976-7987.
Esselman B, Kougias SM, Zdanovskaia MA, Woods RC, McMahon RJ. Synthesis, Purification, and Rotational Spectroscopy of (Cyanomethylene)Cyclopropane-An Isomer of Pyridine. Journal of Physical Chemistry A. 2021;125:5601-5614.