WWU chemistry students, faculty publish new paper on reducing greenhouse gases

Students Allison Teigen, left, and April Trausch work inside of a nitrogen-filled glovebox in the Chemistry Building. The two have used the glovebox during their research on greenhouse gases (photos by Luke Hollister).

WWU Professor of Chemistry John Gilbertson and a team of former undergraduates have published a paper in the American Chemistry Society journal “Inorganic Chemistry,” focusing on reducing the amounts of harmful greenhouse gases in the planet's atmosphere.  

The primary objective in this research is to deoxygenate these gases, essentially stripping them of oxygen to make them less harmful. To achieve this, Gilbertson and his team have developed a unique "switch" capable of binding and unbinding oxygen from carbon dioxide (CO2), a key innovation in this study. 

"We're studying these species to deoxygenize pollutants, with the goal of producing chemicals, fuels, or less harmful gases,” Gilbertson said.  

April Trausch, a former undergraduate from Bluffton, Ohio, and current Chemistry grad student at Western, discussed her specific contributions to this paper and underscored the significance of her lab work in the findings. 

“My role in the paper involved facilitating X-ray crystallography to identify the electron-cloud distribution. I contributed by purifying a sample and creating a crystal compound, which marked the beginning of our path to publication,” Trausch said. 

From left, John Gilbertson, April Trausch, and Allison Teigen smile for the camera in the lab; the three, along with WWU alumna Hanalei Lewine, just published new research in the journal "Inorganic Chemistry."

Hanalei Lewine, a WWU alumna from Eagan, Minnesota who is pursuing her master's degree at the University of Colorado, said this project equipped her with invaluable experience and skills that continue to influence her future endeavors in the field of Chemistry. 

"While working under John, I had the unique opportunity to essentially lead a project as an undergraduate, which is uncommon. This experience enriched my understanding of chemistry significantly and played a pivotal role in my future,” Lewine said. 

Alison Tiegan, like Trausch, an author on this paper and a graduate student at WWU from Stanwood, discussed her role in documenting and preparing the research findings for publication.  

"My primary contribution to this paper involved consolidating Hanalei and April's work, implementing necessary controls for publication readiness, filling gaps, ensuring clarity, and ultimately assembling the final product for submission to the journal. It was a team effort, with each member playing a significant role in our successful publication,” Tiegan said. 

All three students agreed that securing publication by the American Society of Chemistry (ASC) required a dedicated, collaborative student team striving for mutual growth and future advancement, which is exactly what Gilbertson's team was able to do.  

“The effort put forth by the students is what led to the publication. This dedicated group of students is truly exceptional and I believe will make a significant impact on the advancing field of Chemistry," said Gilbertson. 

This paper is now one of the top-ten most-read research papers in the American Chemistry Society journal; read it at ACS Publications. For more information on the project, contact John Gilbertson at john.gilbertson@wwu.edu.