Theodore S. Dibble | Chemistry | SUNY-ESF
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

Theodore S. DibbleProfessor

Theodore Dibble

421 Jahn Lab
1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse, NY 13210

315-470-6596 Extension: 0


Ph.D., 1992, University of Michigan.

Postdoctoral, Wayne State University (1992-1994), Purdue University (1994-1995), California Institute of Technology (1995-1996).

The Dibble Group investigates the chemistry of compounds important for energy and the environment. The current focus is redox chemistry of mercury, particularly in the atmosphere. More broadly, we study the chemistry of the atmosphere, biofuels, and electron beams. The tools of the Dibble group range from standard analytical instrumentation to lasers and computational chemistry.

Atmospheric Mercury Chemistry

Mercury is a neurotoxin. It is transferred from the atmosphere to ecosystems upon oxidation from Hg(0) to Hg(II). Oxidation is initiated by Br:

       Br• + Hg → BrHg•

Models of mercury oxidation had then assumed:

       BrHg• + •Y → BrHgY   (Y= •OH or Br•)

This type of reaction has a large rate constant because there is no barrier to bond formation. In 2012, we proposed that many other radicals, •Y, would be much more important than •OH or Br• because they are much more abundant. The most important Y should be HOO• and •NO2, but other radicals (halogen oxides) also contribute. The problem was that none of the BrHgY compounds we proposed had every been previously studied! Our quantum chemistry calculations proved the BrHgY products to be stable (see images below), but we need much more information if we are to understand this chemistry.

Ball and stick images of two mercury compounds

Even today, none of these reactions has been studied experimentally, even in the laboratory. So there is a great deal of new work to be done to arrive at a basic understanding of this chemistry.

Atmospheric Organic Chemistry

The main focus is alkoxy radicals, whose chemistry influences production of ozone and aerosols. We recently investigated deuterium isotope effects in the reaction below:

for two reasons: (1) it tests our understanding of the kinetics and dynamics of alkoxy + O2 reactions, generally; and (2) because the HD produced from CHD=O is monitored to investigate the global hydrogen cycle. We want to extend our studies of alkoxy radicals to species with functional groups, for which direct experimental data is lacking.

We maintain an interest in isoprene chemistry, both because of its importance and complexity, and because of curioisity aboout the role of intramolecular hydrogen bonds to their radical centers, which can promote unusual chemistry.

Electron Beam Chemistry

As part of an old project we constructed a model of hundreds of reactions to investigate the mechanism of degradation of organic compounds by  electron beams. The organic compounds of interest are ordinary pollutants. We are asking basic questions about effectiveness and reaction mechanism, which will be answered by determining destruction rate and product yields, kinetic modeling, and determination of radical concentrations in plasmas by cavity ringdown spectroscopy. We are extending the model to look at processing CO2 into commodity chemicals.


Follow me on ResearchGate, or email me if you want further information about my research! 

Follow this link for Information on Graduate Admissions in Chemistry. Follow this link to a brief form to ask questions and express your interest in our program.


Selected Publications

Complete Listing (Google Scholar)


Current Graduate Advisees

Current Graduate Advisees

Weiyao GuWeiyao Gu

  • Degree Sought: PHD
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Dibble
  • Area of Study: Environmental Chemistry

Khoa LamKhoa Lam

  • Degree Sought: MS
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Dibble
  • Area of Study: Environmental Chemistry
  • Undergraduate Institution: Ohio Wesleyan University (Chemistry ACS, Music)

Personal Statement
I consider resolving issues pertaining to the environment an inherent responsibility of chemistry, and chemistry provides me with both the deep comprehension of the relationships of the world at the molecular level and the unlimited possibility for practical and innovative thinking to achieve the fundamental understanding of the environment. My research focuses on applying quantum modeling knowledge to predict reactivity and chemical relevance of a yet-to-be-detected species of mercury in the atmosphere, a neurotoxin which may travel far away from its original emission source. When I am not doing research or taking classes, I enjoy doing yoga by candlelight, arranging a capella music, dancing to house music, watching League of Legends tournaments, composing post-minimalist music, failing at rock climbing, binge-watching seasons of Black Mirror, going to operas and classical concerts, and hiking.

Graduate Research Topic
Atmospheric Mercury Chemistry, Quantum Mechanical Modeling, Chemical Kinetics, Computational Chemistry

Favorite Quote
"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths" - Walt Disney, Meet the Robinsons

Xavier SchaferXavier Schafer

  • Degree Sought: MS
  • Graduate Advisor(s): Dibble
  • Area of Study: Environmental Chemistry
  • Undergraduate Institution: Le Moyne College (Chemistry)

Graduate Research Topic
First-ever analytical detection of atmospheric mercury compounds that form upon the bromine-initiated oxidation of mercury (i.e. HgBrNO2, HgBrOH, etc.). The goal is to formulate a method for analytically detecting these compounds and to provide analytical data supporting their existence. This would hopefully facilitate further study of these compounds and provide a means for detecting them in the atmosphere.

Favorite Quote
Itís what you do in the dark... that puts you into the light. ~Unknown