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Patrick Barber

Dr. Patrick Barber


Dr. Patrick S. Barber grew up in northwest Florida and attended The University of West Florida where he split his focus between chemistry and piano performance. Dr. Barber studied organic synthesis with Dr. Michael T. Huggins and piano/harpsichord with Dr. Hedi Salanki. Afterward, he earned a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Nevada-Reno under the mentorship of Dr. Ana de Bettencourt-Dias studying luminescent lanthanide ion complexes for use in lighting and bioprobe applications. While a graduate student, he was awarded the Department of Chemistry’s Graduate Research Assistant of the Year and the State of Nevada Regent’s Scholar Award.

Dr. Barber then became a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Alabama with Dr. Robin D. Rogers working in a variety of fields such as ionic liquids, green chemistry, biomass, and actinide chemistry. During this time, he published several papers and was awarded patents on the isolation of chitin from crustacean shells using ionic liquids. Additionally, he worked on a collaborative project for the US Department of Energy investigating the extraction of uranium from seawater for energy independence.

Before arriving at UWF, Dr. Barber was a Visiting Assistant Professor for three years at Williams College in Massachusetts and an Assistant Professor for four years at Earlham College in Indiana. He is on the editorial board for PeerJ Chemistry Journals and enjoys engaging in science communication with broad audiences such as local communities or schools. He loves the outdoors, exploring new places, good food, and bad movies.

Degrees & Institutions:

Post-Doctoral Fellow, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
Ph.D. in Chemistry, The University of Nevada-Reno
B.S. in Chemistry, The University of West Florida
B.A. in Piano Performance, The University of West Florida
A.A., Gulf Coast Community College


The two primary focuses of the Barber Research Group are 1.) the chemistry of the luminescent lanthanide ion complexes and their applications and 2.) the development of sustainable materials from waste products such as shrimp or lobster shells. The research group utilizes the lab as the ideal location to apply the knowledge students learn in the classroom to explore unanswered scientific questions through experiments and, of course, have lots of fun. Two specific projects are detailed below:

1. We seek to design and develop heavy metal sensors for the environment using luminescent lanthanide ion complexes. By designing our sensors at the molecular level, we gain the ability to understand the relationship between the structure and the macro-scale properties of our resulting materials. Practically, this breaks down into synthesizing new molecules (some of which have never existed!), studying these molecules using spectroscopy (a technique that uses light to understand how those molecules behave), and then testing those molecules for sensitivity and selectivity of heavy metals.

2. We seek to develop a sustainable pathway for the isolation of chitin that leads to the preparation of advanced materials from waste products (i.e., crustacean shells). Ionic liquids are a new class of low toxicity solvents that have recently been shown to aid in the isolation of highly insoluble materials such as cellulose and chitin and results have been remarkable. However, there is very little understanding or optimization of the process. Our group intends to gain a molecular understanding of the current state-of-the-art isolation process of chitin from waste lobster shells using ionic liquids. This understanding will result in an optimized process that will push the technique beyond the laboratory. In practice, this study requires us to grind up waste crustacean shells, react them with ionic liquids, and isolate the chitin from the rest of the shells. By studying the resulting chitin material, we will gain useful information towards the optimization of the overall process. Additionally, this newly isolated chitin can be used in the preparation of advanced materials such as adsorbents (or filters) for heavy metal pollutants in the environment.

Current Courses:

  • CHM 2046L General Chemistry II Lab
  • CHM 4011 Inorganic Chemistry
  • CHM 4610L Inorganic Synthesis Lab

Classes Taught:

  • CHM 4011 Inorganic Chemistry
  • CHM 4610L Inorganic Synthesis Lab