Assistant Prof. of Chemistry - University of Maine - Ft. Kent



Teaching Philosophy

LinkedIn Profile Profile

As an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Maine - Ft. KentI am broadly interested in complementary teaching/research/outreach initiatives that foster science literacy, advocate awareness of environmental issues, and empower citizens through engagement in the scientific process. I teach a variety of chemistry-related classes, study  the chemical ecology of plant-animal-environment interactions in the context of environmental change, and work to strengthen the role of science in our society. Recent activities include teaching biology and kayaking at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, teaching chemistry at Madison College, publishing numerous articles in the fields of environmental chemistry and plant biology, and service as chair of the Inclusive Ecology section of the Ecological Society of America. I am also a Certified Ecologist (Ecological Society of America). Current interests:

   • Empowerment through science literacy and engagement:  

     -Building scientist-community partnerships 

     -Impacts of environmental change on minority communities

     -Citizen science and experiential education

   • Chemical ecology of environmental change: 
     -Importance of structural diversity of foliar condensed tannins in aspen
     -Interrelationship between environmental change, condensed tannin composition, 
       and ecosystem function


Current Research:

My chemical ecology research focuses in two areas: investigating how poplar trees respond to herbivory and climate change, and developing new analytical technologies to assist ecologists with their studies. I am presently collaborating with the Lindroth Research Group at the University of Wisconsin - Madison to examine how genetic and environmental factors influence the biological and chemical properties of condensed tannins in trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides). I recently completed a study of how trees respond to springtime freeze damage (Rubert-Nason et al., 2017Plant Cell Environ. 40, 2743), which is expected to occur more frequently as climate change promotes earlier budbreak. Recent work also includes evaluation of how gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) herbivory affects the spatial distribution of induced phytochemical defenses in trembling aspen (Rubert-Nason et al., 2015J. Chem. Ecol., 41, 651), and collaboration on a National Science Foundation funded project investigating how deer herbivory influences the distribution and natural selection of aspen trees (Rubert-Nasonet al.2012. Genotype and environment modulate the response of trembling aspen to simulated ungulate browsing. Ecol. Soc. Am. Natl. Mtg., Portland, OR, 37232.). The gypsy moth study suggests that plant genetics, soil fertility and feeding location of this invasive species will collectively alter the spatial distribution of aspen chemical defenses, which may influence subsequent feeding by folivores. An important conclusion of the deer-aspen study is that overpopulation of mammalian folivores may contribute to declining abundance of aspen in forests. 

I also apply my background in environmental toxicology and chemistry to develop ecological applications of HPLC and spectroscopy. I refined a liquid-liquid extraction / HPLC technique for high throughput purification of phenolic glycosides from poplars (Rubert-Nason et al., 2018Curr. Anal. Chem.,10.2174/1573411014666171221131933), which may have future applications in ecology or in the pharmaceutical or pesticide industries. I also collaborated with multiple ecologists and agronomists to develop a procedure for using near infrared light to rapidly measure plant nutritional quality and defense chemicals (Rubert-Nason et al., 2013. Anal. Bioanal. Chem., 405, 1333). I routinely work with HPLC (UV/MS) technologies, and developed a method for using solvent-conserving micro-HPLC to analyze plant chemistry (Rubert-Nason et al., 2014Phytochem. Anal., 25, 185). I continue to seek consulting and collaboration opportunities in method development.




In my previous capacity at the University of Wisconsin, I also performed logistics for multiple large, collaborative projects (valued at > $500,000) at remote field sites including two agricultural research stations. Specific duties included hiring personnel, coordinating field crews, overseeing maintenance of agricultural equipment, and pest management. I routinely interacted with crews working simultaneously on different projects in different locations, and am familiar with troubleshooting equipment and personnel problems remotely.




My doctoral thesis “Tetracycline antibiotic distribution and transformation in aquatic systems” (Pedersen Research Group) examined the fate and potential effects of a popular class of antibiotics following release into the environment. This work focused on assessing accumulation and transformation of the compound oxytetracycline in soil/water systems (Rubert et al., 2009. Am. Chem. Soc. SympSer.1018. 45), with an emphasis on aquaculture. I collaborated with a group in the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin – Madison to examine the impacts of these antibiotic residues on freshwater microbes (Seyfried et al.2010. Microb. Ecol., 59, 799), and with a group at the U.S. Geological Survey to develop methods for monitoring tetracycline antibiotics in water and sediments. Collectively, this research familiarized me with the environmental impacts of aquaculture and as well as potential technologies for mitigating those impacts. I am in continued communication with Prof. Pedersen, and look forward to future collaboration as I synthesize topics from my past and present research.


Integrating Teaching, Research, and Outreach 
Science must be applied in order to benefit our society and protect our environment. My teaching, mentoring, and outreach activities highlight the many roles of science in the "real world," bringing together the technical, economic, and social aspects. I aim to cultivate science literacy and inspire future scientists through my chemistry courses, mentored research experiences in chemical ecology, and forthcoming general studies course (Science and society). Each of these agendas also provides an opportunity to apply, and study the effectiveness of, innovative approaches to teaching and engagement.

Undergraduate Project Opportunities (updated Aug. 2018) 
  • Setup/implement condensed tannin analysis method
  • Resurrect an infrared spectrometer
  • Data analysis (impacts of environmental change on condensed tannins in plants)
  • Isolate condensed tannin mixtures with specific chemical properties
  • Establish an aspen common garden plot (spring, 2019)
  • Research Acadian perspectives on science and technology
  • Identify implicit biases embedded in chemistry course curricula
  • And if you have another idea that you think is awesome, please reach out to me...