James Phillips, Ph.D.

Jim Phillips headshot
  • Professor
  • Chemistry
  • Watershed Institute
  • Blugold Supercomputing Cluster
Office Locations

Dr. Jim is originally from the Twin Cities. When not teaching or otherwise being a chemist, he spends his time outdoors as much as possible (walking his dogs, working in the yard, fishing, hiking, paddling, etc.) or playing music. 

Selected Publications (* UWEC student co-authors)

“Structural and Energetic Properties of Nitrile – BX3Complexes: Substituent Effects and their Impact on Condensed-Phase Sensitivity”; J.A. Phillips, Theor. Chem Accts. (Feature Article) 2017, 136(1):16. 

“Structural and Energetic Properties of Haloacetonitrile – GeF4 Complexes”; A.W. Waller,* N.M. Weiss,* D.A. Decato, and J.A. Phillips, J Mol. Struct2017, 1130, 984.

“Infrared Spectrum of CH3CN–HCl in Solid Neon, and Modeling Matrix Effects in CH3CN–HCl and H3N–HCl”; N.M. Weiss,* A.W. Waller,* and J.A. Phillips, J Mol. Struct2016, 1105, 341-349. 

“Quantum chemical and matrix-IR characterization of CH3CN–BCl3: A complex with two distinct minima along the B–N bond potential”; J.P. Wrass,* D. Sadowsky, K.M. Bloomgren,* C.J. Cramer, J.A. Phillips, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys2014, 16, 16480. 

“Structural and Energetic Properties of Acetonitrile – Group IV (A & B) Halide Complexes”; H.M. Helminiak,* R.R. Knauf,* S.J. Danforth,* J.A. Phillips, J. Phys. Chem. A 2014, 118, 4266.

“Condensed-Phase Effects on the Structural Properties of FCH2CN–BF3 and ClCH2CN–BF3: A Matrix-Isolation and Computational Study”; A.R. Buchberger,* S.J. Danforth ,* K.M. Bloomgren,* J.A. Rohde,* E.L. Smith,* C.C.A. Gardener,* J.A. Phillips, J. Phys. Chem. B 2013, 117, 11687. 

“Structural and Energetic Properties of Alkylfluoride – BF3complexes in the Gas Phase and Condensed-Phase Media: Computations and Matrix Infrared Spectroscopy”; R.R. Knauf,* H.M. Helminiak,* J.P. Wrass,* T.M. Gallert,* J.A. Phillips, J. Phys. Org. Chem2012, 25, 493.

“Structure, Bonding, and Energetic Properties of Nitrile - Borane Complexes: RCN–BH3”; E.L. Smith,* D. Sadowsky, C. J. Cramer, J.A. Phillips, J. Phys. Chem. A 2011, 115, 1955.

21. “A Short – Yet Very Weak Dative Bond: Structure, Bonding, and Energetic Properties of N2–BH3”; E.L. Smith,* D. Sadowski, J.A. Phillips, C.J. Cramer, D.J. Giesen, J. Phys. Chem. A 2010, 114, 2628.

Teaching Interests
  • General chemistry: CHEM 115
  • Physical chemistry: CHEM 433, CHEM 434, CHEM 438
  • Environmental chemistry: CHEM 127, CHEM 304
  • Independent study: CHEM 497/499
Research and Creative Activities

Structural and Energetic Properties of Molecular Complexes: The main interest of the Phillips group is to identify and characterize “molecular complexes”, which are associations of two otherwise stable molecules (or simply, “two molecules stuck together”). We are specifically interested in identifying those that undergo substantial changes in structure in response to a change in their chemical environment (gas phase vs. solution, vs. solid state). One example of this type of behavior is a "gas-solid structure difference"; when a complex has a different structure in its gaseous state than when it exists as bulk material as a solid. Some molecular complexes show extreme sensitivity to their environment, and undergo significant structural changes in solution, or even in solidified inert gases: neon, argon, and nitrogen. The main tools of our research are low-temperature (4-20 K) infrared spectroscopy, which allows us to detect structural changes in inert, bulk, solid samples, and computer models, which enable us to explore gas-phase structures and understand the underlying mechanistic features that lead to this behavior. To date, this research program has been supported by over $1.2 million in external grant funds, and has led to 19 peer-reviewed journal articles (with 36 UWEC student co-authors), and 48 off-campus student conference presentations.

  • Postdoctoral Work: University of Colorado (Physical and Atmospheric Chemistry)
    NOAA Postdoctoral Fellowship in Climate and Global Change
    Advisor: Dr. Veronica Vaida
  • Ph.D., University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (Physical Chemistry)
    Thesis Advisor: Dr. Kenneth Leopold
  • B.A., Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT (Chemistry, Music Composition)
    Thesis Advisor: Dr. Sunhee Choi