Lori Watson, Ph.D.

Professor of chemistry

Email:[email protected]

Department: Biochemistry

Program: Honors Program

Location: Stanley Hall Room 239
801 National Road
Richmond, Indiana 47374

Why do you teach at Earlham?

The answer to why I choose to teach at Earlham is simple–the students! Earlham students are curious and passionate and bright. They’re willing to dig in, learn how to do new things and work collaboratively to achieve a common goal. They are connected with others around our community and around the world. They take advantage of every moment and every experience. As a small, selective liberal arts college, Earlham not only allows me to teach small classes and labs but also work with students in collaborative student-faculty research in the very best facilities and using state of the art instrumentation. As a Quaker institution, Earlham takes seriously the search for truth, the nurturing of a community based in principles of integrity, respect, and simplicity, and working for a more just and peaceful world.

About me

I am a synthetic and computational organometallic chemist, with additional interests in chemical education. Each summer, I work with students on collaborative research. Most recently, my group researched a piece of the puzzle of cleaner energy: basic ligands and their role in the earliest steps of the catalytic cycle. I regularly teach our Principles of Chemistry course, as well as upper level courses in Inorganic and Physical Chemistry. I teach and advise in the Honors Program, and teach an Earlham Seminar on the Chemistry of Cooking. I am also a faculty adviser for the Questing Catholics student group and have led a first-year seminar on “Faith, Reason, and Imagination” and co-led a Ford/Knight research project entitled “Is That Funny? Religion and Humor.”

I currently lead a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation establishing a new six-year career planning and discernment program for Earlham students in STEM, which also provides up to $10,000 per year in scholarships to income-eligible students. This Earlham Science Scholar program also provides a paid Earlham summer research experience and other mentorship and cohort activities.

In Summer 2017, I and other collaborators were selected for a six-year $1.1 million grant to develop curricula and promote best practices in the teaching of inorganic chemistry. The National Science Foundation-funded project will expand the work of the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists (IONiC), which I co-founded with chemists from other leading liberal arts colleges like Harvey Mudd, Hope and Reed.

I love to weave baskets, bake lots of bread, and work in my backyard garden. I enjoy reading lots of science fiction and fantasy. I have an interest in biblical and liturgical theology. I enjoy cooking, especially with students, and love hiking, particularly in Appalachia.


  • Ph.D., Indiana University
  • M.T.S., St. Meinrad School of Theology
  • B.S., University of Kentucky, Lexington

Professional memberships

Research projects

Collaborative student research experiences

Each summer I work with a group of students doing student-faculty collaborative research. This past summer we worked on a computational chemistry project investigating using π-basic ligands to split the hydrocarbon bond. The cheap, selective catalytic conversion of the C-H bond in hydrocarbons to a functionalized C-heteroatom bond remains a central challenge in the fields of alternative energy, organic synthesis, and polymer chemistry. Platinum group metals hold forth tremendous promise for the catalytic activation and functionalization of these unactivated C-H bonds. A major stumbling block in the rational design of catalysts to effect these transformations has been a lack of fundamental understanding of how the electronic structure of the supporting ligands affect each fundamental step of the catalytic cycle. While knowing the ligand characteristics that enhance the first step of the cycle is but one piece of the overall puzzle, it would be a key advance in our search for cleaner energy. Last summer’s work studied the effect of various ligands on four model catalytic systems, including both Ir and Pt metal centers. Each of the newly designed ligands with Ir and Pt showed a marked improvement in the thermodynamics of the C-H activation reactions from previously published ligand systems.

Scholarly interest

I am a synthetic and computational organometallic chemist primarily interested in unsaturated transition metal catalysts used for C-X activation. I have a secondary interest in the coordination chemistry of Lanthanide and Actinide complexes used for Ln/Ac separation chemistry. I am also interested in teaching and learning in inorganic chemistry and am a founding member of the IONiC Leadership Council (Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists) which has launched VIPEr (www.ionicviper.org), an online resource to support a virtual community of practice for improving inorganic chemistry education.

Published works

Watson, L. A.; Bentley, A. K.; Eppley, H. J.; Lin, S. Building an Online Community of Practice for the Evolution of Effective, Evidence-Based Teaching Practices: 15 Years of Improving Inorganic Chemistry Education. Advances in Teaching Inorganic Chemistry Volume 2: Laboratory Enrichment and Faculty Community, 2020, 127-142.

Raker, J. R.; Pratt, J. M.; Watson, L. A. Building Community: A Reflection on the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists. Advances in Teaching Inorganic Chemistry Volume 1: Classroom Innovations and Faculty Development, 2020, 131-139.

Stewart, J.L.; Bentley, A.K.; Johnson, A.R; Nataro, C.; Reisner, B.A.; Watson, L.A., Teaching from the primary inorganic literature: lessons from Richard Andersen, Dalton Trans., 2018, 47, 13755-13760

Collins, M. S.; Choi, R. Y.; Zakharov, L. N.; Watson, L. A.; Hay, B. P.; Johnson, D. W. Self-Assembled Trinuclear Arsenic and Antimony Macrobicycles Chemical Science, 2015, 6, 2444-2448.

Mindiola, D. J.; Watson, L. A.; Meyer, K.; Hillhouse, G. L. Functionalization of Complexed N2O in Bis(pentamethylcyclopentadienyl) Systems of Zirconium and Titanium Organometallics, 2014, 33, 2760–2769.

de Sahb, C.; Watson, L. A.; Nadas, J.; Hay, B. P. Design Criteria for Polyazine Extractants Inorg. Chem., 2013, 52, 10632-10642.

Custelcean, R.; Bonnesen, P. V.; Duncan, N. C.; Zhang, X.; Watson, L. A.; Van Berkel, G.; Parson, W.; Hay, B. P. Urea-Functionalized M4L6 Cage Receptors: Anion-Templated Self-Assembly and Selective Guest Exchange in Aqueous Solutions J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2012, 134, 8525–8534.

Vukovic, S.; Watson, L. A.; Kang, S. O.; Custelcean, R.; Hay, B. P. How Amidoximate Binds the Uranyl Cation Inorg. Chem., 2012, 51, 3855–3859.

Jamieson, E. R.; Eppley, H. E.; Geselbracht, M. J.; Johnson, A. R. Reisner, B. A.; Smith, S. A.; Stewart, J. L. Watson, L. A.; Williams, B. S. Inorganic Chemistry and IONiC: An Online Community Bringing Cutting-Edge Research into the Classroom, Inorg. Chem. 2011, 50, 5849-5854.

Watson, L. A.; Hay, B. P. Role of the Uranyl Oxo Group as a Hydrogen Bond Acceptor.  Inorg. Chem., 2011, 50, 2599-2605.

Reisner, B. A.; Eppley, H. J.; Geselbracht, M.; Jamieson, E. R.; Johnson, A. J.; Smith, S.R.; Stewart, J. L.; Watson, L. A.; Williams, B. S. Building an Online Teaching Community: An Evolving Tale of Communication, Collaboration, and Chemistry. ACS Symposium Series: Enhancing Learning with Online Resources, Social Networking, and Digital Libraries, 2010, Belford, R.; Moore, J.; Pence, H. (Eds.). Chapter 16, pp 309-330.

Watson, L. A., Geselbracht, M. J., and Reisner, B. A. Inorganic Chemistry Learning Objects for Use in the General Chemistry Curriculum: Athletic Periodic Trends.  J. Chem. Ed., 2010, 87, 756.

Benatan, E., Dene, J., Eppley, H. J., Geselbracht, M. J., Jamieson, E. R., Johnson, A. R., Reisner, B. A., Stewart, J. L., Watson, L. and Williams, B. S. JCE VIPEr: An Inorganic Teaching and Learning Community.  J. Chem. Ed., 2009, 86, 766.

Benatan, E., Eppley, H. J., Geselbracht, M. J., Johnson, A. R., Reisner, B. A., Stewart, J. L., Watson, L. and Williams, B. S. IONiC: A Cyber-Enabled Community of Practice for Improving Inorganic Chemical Education.  J. Chem. Ed., 2009, 86, 123.

Gerber, L. C. H.; Watson, L. A.; Parkin, S.; Wang, W.; Foxman, B. M.; Ozerov, O. V. Bis(methylidene) Complex of Tantalum Supported by a PNP Ligand. Organometallics, 2007, 26, 4866.

Ozerov, O.; Watson, L. A.; Pink, M.; Caulton, K. G. Operationally Unsaturated Pincer/Rhenium Complexes form Metal Carbenes from Cycloalkenes and Metal Carbynes from Alkanes. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2007, 129, 6003.

Basuli, F.; Bailey, B. C.; Watson, L. A.; Tomaszewski, J.; Huffman, J. C.; Mindiola, D. J. Four-Coordinate Titanium Alkylidene Complexes: Synthesis, Reactivity, and Kinetic Studies Involving the Terminal Neopentylidene Functionality. Organometallics, 2005, 24, 1886.

Çelenligil-Çetin, R.; Watson, L. A.; Guo, C.; Foxman, B.; Ozerov, O. Decarbonylation of Acetone and Carbonate at a Pincer-Ligated Ru Center. Organometallics, 2005, 24, 186.

Watson, L. A.; Pink, M.; Caulton, K. G.  The Fate of Nitric Oxide in Its Reaction with the 14-valence-electron Planar Species [(tBu2PCH2SiMe2)2N]RuCl. J. Mol. Cat. A: Chemical, 2004, 224, 51.

Ozerov, O.; Watson, L. A.; Pink, M.; Baik, M-H.; Caulton, K. G. Terminal Acetylenes React to Increase Unsaturation in [(tBu2PCH2SiMe2)2N]Re(H)4. Organometallics, 2004, 23, 4934.

Walstrom, A. N.; Watson, L. A.; Pink, M.; Caulton, K. G.  Facile Insertion of Terminal Acetylenes in the RuII-NR2 Bond of a 14-valence Electron Complex. Organometallics, 2004, 23, 4814.

Ozerov, O.; Watson, L. A.; Pink, M.; Caulton, K. G. Transformation of acyclic alkenes to hydrido carbynes by (PNPR)Re complexes. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2004, 126, 6363.

Ozerov, O.; Pink, M.; Watson, L. A.; Caulton, K. G. Aromatic vs. Aliphatic C-H Cleavage of Alkyl-Substituted Pyridines By (PNPiPr)Re Compounds. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2004, 126, 2105.

Watson, L. A.; Franzman, B.; Bollinger, J. C.; Caulton, K. G. p-Donor Olefin Substituents alter Olefin Binding to CpFe(CO)2+.  New J. Chem., 2003, 27, 1769.

Basuli, F.; Watson, L. A.; Huffman, J. C.; Mindiola, D. J. Phosphaazaallene and phosphinylimide complexes stemming from a terminal and four-coordinate titanium phosphinidene. J. Chem. Soc., Dalton Trans., 2003, 22, 4228.

Ozerov, O.; Watson, L. A.; Pink, M.; Caulton, K. G. A p-Basic Rhenium Center that Effects Cyclohexene Isomerization to a s-Agostic Carbene Ligand. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2003, 125, 9604.

Ho, V. M.; Watson, L. A.; Caulton, K. G. Double C(sp3) Dehydrogenation as a Route to Coordinated Arduengo Carbenes: Experiment and Computation on Comparative π-Acidity.  New J. Chem., 2003, 27, 1446.

Watson, L. A.; Ozerov, O.; Pink, M.; Caulton, K. G. Four-coordinate, Planar Ru(II).  A Triplet State as a Response to a 14 Valence Electron Configuration.  J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2003, 125, 8426.

Ozerov, O. V.; Huffman, J. C.; Watson, L. A.; Caulton, K. G. Conversion of Ethylene to Hydride and Ethylidyne by Amido Rhenium Polyhydride. Organometallics, 2003, 22, 2539.

Watson, L. A.; Coalter, J. N.; Ozerov, O.; Pink, M.; Huffman, J. C.; Caulton, K. G. Amido/Phosphine Pincer Hydrides of Ruthenium. New J. Chem., 2003, 27, 263.

Ozerov, O. V.; Gerard, H. F.; Watson, L. A.; Huffman, J. C.; Caulton, K. G. Double Silyl Migration Converting ORe[NSiMe2CH2PCy2)2] to NRe[O(SiMe2CH2PCy2)2] Substructures.  Inorg. Chem., 2002, 41, 5615.

Watson, L. A.; Eisenstein, O. Entropy Explained: the origin of some simple trends.  J. Chem. Ed., 2002, 79, 1269.

Watson, L. A.; Caulton, K. G.  Assessing Isomeric Structures of Pincer-ligated Ruthenium and Osmium Polyhydrides using Density Functional Calculations.  Molecular Physics, 2002, 100, 385. Watson, L. A.; Yandulov, D. V.; Caulton, K. G. C-Do (Do=p-donor, F) Cleavage in H2C:CH(Do) by (Cp2ZrHCl)n: Mechanism, Agostic Fluorines, and a Carbene of Zr(IV). J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2001, 123, 603.

We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.