Benjamin Cotts

Assistant Professor of Chemistry/Biochemistry

 
 work(802) 443-2033
 Spring 2022: M 11:10-noon; Tu 11:30-12:30 F 12:30-145
 McCardell Bicentennial Hall 545

Benjamin Cotts is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He came to Middlebury in 2021 after postdoctoral research and teaching in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 2016, and a B.A. in Chemistry from Carleton College in 2011. At Middlebury, Ben teaches general, physical, and analytical chemistry courses.

Our lab is interested in helping find new forms of abundant and affordable clean energy, crucial to tackling the climate crisis. Emerging materials such as quantum dots and organic semiconductors are considerably better at absorbing light than conventional crystalline silicon, requiring less material to create a working solar cell or LED. Yet these new materials form chaotic structures in devices requiring careful study to understand how the arrangement of molecules at the microscale influences overall device function and stability. Specifically, we use time-resolved spectroscopies to track excited electrons under different sample conditions.

Experiments are conducted both here at Middlebury College and at national user facilities. In BiHall, our central instruments are a time-resolved fluorimeter and a quantum yield spectrometer, allowing us to measure how long excited electrons live in different samples. We are also currently starting to build a photothermal deflection spectrometer and other capabilities. Outside of Middlebury, we also run time-resolved x-ray diffraction experiments at the Advanced Photon Source housed within the DOE Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago and ultrafast electron diffraction experiments at the SLAC MeV-UED facility in Palo Alto, CA. These experiments generate large amounts of data that we work to analyze with custom Python scripts.

Head to the lab website to learn more about what we are working on. 

 

Courses

Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

CHEM 0103 - General Chemistry I      

General Chemistry I
Major topics will include atomic theory and atomic structure; chemical bonding; stoichiometry; introduction to chemical thermodynamics. States of matter; solutions and nuclear chemistry. Laboratory work deals with testing of theories by various quantitative methods. Students with strong secondary school preparation are encouraged to consult the department chair for permission to elect CHEM 0104 or CHEM 0107 in place of this course. CHEM 0103 is also an appropriate course for a student with little or no prior preparation in chemistry who would like to learn about basic chemical principles while fulfilling the SCI or DED distribution requirement. 3 hrs. lect., 3 hrs. lab, 1 hr. disc. DED SCI

Spring 2022

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CHEM 0311 - Instrumental Analysis      

Instrumental Analysis
In this course we will learn fundamental concepts of analytical chemistry, instrumental analysis, and scientific writing. Lecture topics include experimental design and quality control; sample collection and preparation; calibration, error, and data analysis; statistics; and the theory and operation of chemical instrumentation. Multi-week laboratory projects provide hands-on experience in qualitative and quantitative analysis using a variety of research-quality instrumentation (e.g., UV/Vis spectrophotometry, gas chromatography mass spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry). Writing workshops promote professional scientific writing skills through guided practice in writing analysis, peer review, and revision. (CHEM 0204 or CHEM 0242) 3 hr. lect., 6 hrs. lab. CW

Fall 2021, Fall 2022

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CHEM 0351 - Quantum Chemistry/Spectroscopy      

Quantum Chemistry and Spectroscopy
Quantum theory is developed and applied to atomic structure and molecular bonding. Spectroscopy is examined as an application of quantum theory. (CHEM 0204 or CHEM 0241, MATH 0122 and PHYS 0110, or by waiver) 3 hrs. lect.

Fall 2021, Fall 2022

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CHEM 0355 - Thermodynamics and Kinetics      

Thermodynamics and Kinetics for Chemical and Biological Sciences
In this course students will learn the central ideas that frame thermodynamics and kinetics. The application of these ideas to chemical, biological, and the environmental processes will be covered using examples such as refrigerators, heat pumps, fuel cells, bioenergetics, lipid membranes, and catalysts (including enzymes). (PHYS 0109 or PHYS 0110 and MATH 0122 and CHEM 0204) 3 hrs lect., 1 hr disc.

Spring 2022

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CHEM 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study Project
Individual study for qualified students. (Approval required)

Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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CHEM 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Research
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory research on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for CHEM 0700, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a faculty member in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. Attendance at all Chemistry and Biochemistry Department seminars is expected. (Approval required; open only to seniors)

Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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CHEM 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Students who have initiated research projects in CHEM 0400 and who plan to complete a senior thesis should register for CHEM 0701. Students are required to write a thesis, give a public presentation, and defend their thesis before a committee of at least three faculty members. The final grade will be determined by the department. Attendance at all Chemistry and Biochemistry Department seminars is expected. (CHEM 0400; approval required)

Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

McCardell Bicentennial Hall
276 Bicentennial Way
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753