Assistant Professor Timothy Bertram to Join Department of Chemistry

Timothy Bertram

In January, Assistant Professor Timothy Bertram and members of his research group will trek from San Diego to Madison to join the UW-Madison Department of Chemistry. Since 2009, Bertram has served as assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego.

“We are thrilled to capitalize on a unique opportunity to bring this talented couple, Tim Bertram and Lisa Cadmus-Bertram, a professor of kinesiology, to campus,” says Professor and Chair Robert McMahon.

Bertram previously earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington. His atmospheric chemistry research program complements the department’s growing focus on sustainable and environmental chemistry.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome Tim to campus. He is an expert in atmospheric chemistry, specializing in laboratory experiments and field observations of atmospheric aerosols and the ocean,” Professor Gil Nathanson says. “Tim’s broad research program will help unite students and faculty from around the campus in our efforts to unravel the forces that control climate change and air quality.”

Read on to learn more about research in the Bertram group, Professor Bertram’s interest in interdisciplinary collaborations, and his fondness for Nordic skiing.

Q: What is the focus of your research?

TB: 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 a few of your group’s current projects?

TB: 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 most excites you about coming to UW-Madison?

TB: The engaged, inspired community. UW-Madison’s relentless commitment to serve the community through both research and teaching is unmatched by its peer institutions. I am thrilled to join and serve the Madison community and provide opportunities for students to learn about the Earth system and how chemical processes impact our environment.

Q: What can students expect from you in class or in the lab?

TB: 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 classes will you teach?

TB: I will start by teaching General Chemistry 104 this spring.

Q: With which research groups will you work closely, both in the department and across campus?

TB: I will most closely work with the Keutsch and Nathanson groups within the department, and I will look for opportunities to build collaborations with atmospheric scientists (Professor Tracey Holloway) and engineers (Professor Jamie Schauer).

Q: Who is a scientist who has played a role in inspiring your work?

TB: I have been fortunate to have many formal and informal mentors, in addition to a host of colleagues that provide continued inspiration. However, I will always be grateful to Professor Barry Huebert for fostering a deep sense of scientific curiosity and creativity.

Q: What unique strength do you hope to bring to the department?

TB: 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.

Q: Where did you grow up?

TB: I am from a one-stoplight town in western New York, Honeoye Falls.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of your work?

TB: I was a Nordic skier well before I was a chemist. I am thrilled to be returning to winter and am already registered for the Birkie this February. Outside of that, I spend most of my free time with my wife, Lisa, an assistant professor of kinesiology, and our 4-year-old son, Andrew, and 2-year-old daughter, Claire.

–Libby Dowdall,

Photo by Sarah Morton, College of Letters & Science