Chemistry / Biochemistry
Department Chair:
Rebecca Whelan

Administrative Assistant:

Department Email:

Phone: (440) 775-8300
Fax: (440) 775-6682

Science Center A263
119 Woodland St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Office Hours: 8:30-noon 1:00-5:00pm

Catherine Oertel

Catherine Oertel

Associate Professor
Winter Term Committee Chair

Contact Information


Science Center N280
(440) 775-8989

Catherine Oertel

Catherine Oertel

Educational Background

  • Bachelor of Arts, Oberlin College, 1999
  • Master of Science, Cornell University, 2002
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Cornell University, 2005

Research Interests:

Synthesis of inorganic-organic materials, studies of composition and corrosion in organ pipes and other cultural materials.

Research in the Oertel lab is in the area of inorganic materials chemistry, with projects focusing on both synthesis of new materials and conservation of historic materials. We synthesize hybrid inorganic-organic network compounds, in which metal centers are linked by ditopic organic ligands. Building blocks for these materials are selected with the goal of preparing functional materials by incorporating catalytically active sites or low-symmetry components. Solvothermal reactions, in which reagent mixtures are heated in sealed containers to above the normal boiling points of their solvents, are used to promote crystal growth. Compounds are characterized on campus by powder X-ray diffraction and thermogravimetric analysis and are studied by single-crystal X-ray diffraction through off-campus collaborations.

A second, interdisciplinary area of research uses methods of materials chemistry to study the causes and mechanisms of corrosion of historic organ pipes. We use exposure chambers to expose representative metal samples to corrosive conditions and study the corrosion product compositions and morphologies by X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. This project has the goal of obtaining information that can be used by organ builders and restorers to conserve historic organ pipes and prevent corrosion in new ones.

NSF Grant Article: Early Career Grant

Feature Article:  Key to saving pipe organs

Blog Post:  A Corrosive Enemy

Audio Interview: Pulse of the Planet

Video news article: Historic Pipe Organs


Inorganic Chem, General Chem, Synthesis Laboratory

Representative Publications:

  • Liu, E.E.;* Gang, C.;* Zeller, M.; Fabini, D.H.; Oertel, C.M. “Ligand-Induced Variations in Symmetry and Structural Dimensionality of Lead Oxide Carboxylates,” Cryst. Growth Des. 2017, 17, 1574-1582.
  • Oertel, C.M.; Richards, A. “Music and Materials – Art and Science of Organ Pipe Metal,” Mater. Res. Soc. Bull. 2017, 42, 55-61.
  • Easterday, C.C.;* Dedon, L.R.;* Zeller, M.; Oertel, C.M. “Helical 1[Pb2O] Chains in Polymorphs of Pb2O(C6H5COO)2,” Cryst. Growth Des. 2014, 14, 2048-2055.
  • Mauck, C.M.;* van den Heuvel, T.W.P.;* Hull, M.M.;* Zeller, M.; Oertel, C.M. “Synthesis and Structures of Pb3O2(CH3OO)2⋅0.5H2O and Pb2O(HCOO)2: Two Corrosion Products Revisited,” Inorg. Chem. 2010, 49, 10736-10743.
  • Tian, H.;* Iliff, H.A.;* Moore, L.J.;* Oertel, C.M. "Structure and Polymorphism in M(ethylendediamine)3MoS4 (M=Mn, Co, Ni)," Cryst. Growth Des. 2010, 10, 669-675.