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Joel G. Davis

Joel Davis image

Associate Professor of Chemistry



  • Education

    B.S., Chemistry, Wisconsin Lutheran College
    Ph.D., Chemistry, Purdue University


    At a young age, my interest in science was kindled by science fiction stories, comic books, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. My fondness for chemistry developed in high school, where I was fortunate to have a skilled and devoted chemistry teacher. While working on my doctorate in West Lafayette, Indiana, I discovered a deep satisfaction in mentoring collegiate students. As the graduate of a small liberal arts college in the Milwaukee area, I hoped to find a faculty position at a similar institution, and was fortunate to be called to WLC. Outside of my academic duties and service activities, I enjoy reading, writing, and drawing. In addition to my vocation as chemistry professor, I am also blessed to be a husband and father. My wife and I enjoy playing board games, traveling, and spending time with our children.

    As a professor at WLC, my goal is to help students gain the chemical knowledge they will need to be successful, both in their chosen career path and as an educated citizen. I prefer using group learning activities to keep students actively involved and to promote critical thinking skills, since college is a time to hone the problem solving, interpersonal, and individual learning skills that students will need throughout their lives.


    • CHE 161 – General Chemistry 1
    • CHE 162 – General Chemistry 2
    • CHE 168 – General Chemistry Laboratory 1
    • CHE 169 – General Chemistry Laboratory 2
    • CHE 341 – Physical Chemistry 1
    • CHE 342 – Physical Chemistry 2
    • CHE 349 – Physical Chemistry Laboratory 2
    • CHE 391 – Special Topics
    • CHE 392 – Special Topics Laboratory
    • CHE 430 – Inorganic Chemistry
    • PHY 201 – Space, Time, and Motion Laboratory

    Research Interests

    Water is abundant in biological and geological chemistry. Processes such as protein folding, self-aggregation, and micelle formation are just a few biochemical examples that are mediated – if not initiated – by water. Since many of these processes involve molecules with hydrophobic surfaces (those that “fear” getting wet and are repelled from – or by -water), understanding the behavior and structure of water molecules around such surfaces is critical to understanding the driving forces behind these processes. My dissertation work focused on using Raman spectroscopy to study water hydration structure around hydrophobic solutes.

    The chemistry department at WLC has several analytical instruments at its disposal, including mass spectrometry, optical spectroscopy (UV-VIS, IR, fluorescence), and atomic absorption spectroscopy. WLC students have assisted me in constructing a Raman spectrometer on campus, and our department recently acquired a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer. One of my current research interests is to develop interdisciplinary collaborations with other departments and apply the aforementioned techniques (along with their associated chemical knowledge) to experimental research questions in these other disciplines. For example, my students and I have assisted the anthropology department in determining the copper content in archeological artifacts.

    Students often have their own research interests. I am always willing to talk to students about their interests and develop research projects that are exciting for both me and the student.

    Scholarly Works

    Select Publications

    Joel G. Davis, Samual R. Zukowski, Blake M. Rankin, Dor Ben-Amotz. Influence of a neighboring charged group on hydrophobic hydration shell structure, J. Phys. Chem B. 119, 9417-9422 (2015).

    Joel G. Davis, Blake M. Rankin, Kamil P. Gierszal, Dor Ben-Amotz, Water Dangling OH Cooperativity at Molecular Hydrophobic Interfaces, Nat. Chem. 5, 796-802 (2013).

    Joel G. Davis, Kamil P. Gierszal, Ping Wang, Dor Ben-Amotz, Water Structural  Transformation at Molecular Hydrophobic Interfaces, Nature 491, 582-585 (2012).

    Kamil P. Gierszal, Joel G. Davis, Michael D. Hands, David S. Wilcox, Lyudmila V. Slipchenko, Dor Ben-Amotz, π-Hydrogen Bonding in Liquid Water. J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2, 2930-2933 (2011).

    Jill Tomlinson-Phillips, Joel Davis, Dor Ben-Amotz, Daniel Spångberg, Ljupčo Pejov, Kersti Hermansson, Structure and Dynamics of Water Dangling OH Bonds in Hydrophobic Hydration Shells. Comparison of Simulation and Experiment. J. Phys. Chem. A 115, 6177-6183 (2011).

    Select Presentations

    “POGIL as Gen. Ed.: Generating artifacts for the assessment of general education outcomes in the POGIL Classroom,” Oral Presentation, American Chemical Society 253rd National Meeting, San Francisco, CA, April 2017.

    "Development of a 532nm Raman Spectrometer for Solvation-Shell Spectroscopy,” Oral Presentation, Faculty Development, Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, WI, November 2014.

    “Studying Hydrophobic Hydration Shells Using Raman Spectroscopy,” Oral Presentation, Student Organizations, Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, WI, November, 2013.

    “Water Hydrogen Bond Strength Changes in Hydrophobic Hydration Shells,” Poster.  Gordon Research Conference: Water & Aqueous Solutions, Holderness, NH, August 2012.

    “Water Hydrogen Bond Strength Changes in Hydrophobic Hydration Shells,” Poster.  Gordon-Kenan Research Symposium: Water & Aqueous Solutions, Holderness, NH, August 2012.

    “Water H-bond Strength Changes in Hydrophobic Hydration Shells,” Oral Presentation, American Chemical Society 243rd National Meeting, San Diego, CA, March 2012.

    “Experimental Studies of Dangling OH Bonds and Water H-Bonds in Hydrophobic Hydration Shells,” Oral Presentation, Department of Chemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, April 2011.

    “Experimental Studies of Water H-Bonds and Dangling OH Bonds in Hydrophobic Hydration Shells,” Poster, Gordon Research Conference: Water & Aqueous Solutions, Holderness, NH, August 2010.


    Wisconsin Lutheran College

    • Co-Curricular Committee
    • General Education Committee
    • Faculty advisor for The Point of Grace (WLC Chapter)
    • Advanced Placement Examination Reader


    • Church Council Member
    • Church Choir Member
    • Member of the Board of Directors for The Point of Grace (Milwaukee-area Campus Ministry)

    Professional Memberships

    • American Association for the Advancement of Science
    • American Chemical Society