Bert Holmes, Ph.D.

Philip G. Carson Distinguished Chair; Physical Chemistry

Contact Information

  • 828-232-5168
  • 112 Zeis Hall

Office Hours

  • Monday 10:15 am - 12:15 pm
  • Wednesday 10:15 am - 12:15 pm
  • Note: Zoom or in-person

Courses Taught

  • CHEM 132 General Chemistry
  • CHEM 111 General Chemistry Laboratory
  • CHEM 179 Careers and Ethics in Twenty-first Century Health Care
  • CHEM 179 Undergraduate Research, Critical Thinking, Entrepreneurship
  • CHEM 380 Chemical Research Methods
  • CHEM 314 Physical Chemistry I laboratory
  • CHEM 315 Physical Chemistry II laboratory
  • CHEM 334 Physical Chemistry I
  • CHEM 335 Physical Chemistry II
  • CHEM 430 Atmospheric Chemistry
  • CHEM 416-418 Chemical Research I, II and III


  • Ph.D., Kansas State University, Chemistry, 1975
  • B.S. and B.A., The College of Emporia, Chemistry and Mathematics, 1970

About Me

I began my career in 1975 at Ohio Northern University as an Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor of Chemistry. Before moving to UNC Asheville in 1998 to fill the Phillip G. Carson Distinguished Chair of Science, I spent 15 years at Lyon College as the W. C. Brown, Sr. Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Head of the Mathematics and Natural Sciences Division. I established the Pre-Health Professional Advisory Committee and served as the Director of the Pre-Health Professions from 1999 to 2008. From 2008-2011, I spent three years as a rotator at the National Science Foundation. I have spent my entire career teaching at liberal arts colleges because I believe they offer the most effective educational environments.

I am passionate about the critical role of student-faculty research in teaching chemistry to undergraduates. I believe that student research with a faculty mentor is the highest form of pedagogy. I have conducted research in the summer with undergraduates for 45 consecutive years and most of my publications have undergraduates as co-authors. I am co-author of a booklet commissioned by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) titled “How to Get Started in Research at Undergraduate Institutions” that is now in its second edition. I wrote a chapter titled “Setting up and Managing a Research Program and Laboratory” for CUR book titled “How to Get Started in STEM Research with Undergraduates”.  I also wrote a chapter titled “Evolution of Undergraduate Research as a Critical Component in the Education of Chemists” in Sputnik to Smartphones: A Half-Century of Chemistry Education, Mary Virginia Orna, editor, Chapter 12, 2016, pp 219-238.  ACS Symposium Series, Volume 1208.

Recently, I and other members of our department were invited to write a chapter titled “Transformative Impact of a Comprehensive Undergraduate Research Program on the Department of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina-Asheville ” in a book titled Best Practices for Supporting and Expanding Undergraduate Research in Chemistry, Bridget Gourley and Rebecca Jones, editors, Chapter 13, 2018, pp 227-241.  ACS Symposium Series, Volume 1275.

Teaching Interests

I am a physical chemist who teaches Foundations of Physical Chemistry, and I take great pride in trying to be an effective educator. I also teach General Chemistry, First Year Seminar courses, and advanced courses in Atmospheric or Environmental Chemistry.  I have been honored with the following three teaching awards at UNC Asheville:  Distinguished Teacher Award in the Natural Sciences, Distinguished Teaching Award for the University, and the Board of Governors Teaching Award.

Research Interests

My primary research interests are in understanding the reaction mechanisms for both unimolecular and bimolecular processes and measuring/calculating rate constants for halocarbons that are (a) being considered as replacement compounds for CFCs or (b) are currently in use and will be banned in 2020 or 2030. In collaboration with Professor George Heard we have been funding between 7-9 students for 10 weeks of research each summer. My research has been supported for 26 consecutive years by grants from the Chemistry Division at the National Science Foundation and has generated over $3 million in external support. In 1992, I received the prestigious Chemical Manufacturers Association Catalyst Award for outstanding achievement in promoting undergraduate chemical education, in 2014 I was honored with the American Chemical Society Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution, and in 2018 I was given the CUR Fellows Award in honor of our “internationally recognized research program involving undergraduates”.

Selected Publications (since 2010)

Undergraduate co-authors are noted with an **.

  • Duncan, Juliana R.**; Solaka, Sarah A.**; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E. "Unimolecular HCl and HF Elimination Reactions of 1,2-Dichloroethane, 1,2-Difluoroethane and 1,2-Chlorofluoroethane: Assignment of Threshold Energies and Pre-exponential Factors"  J. Phys. Chem. A, 2010, 114(2), 794-803.
  • Friederich, Laura**; Duncan, Juliana R.**; Heard, George L.; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E.  "Unimolecular Reactions of CH2BrCH2Br, CH2BrCH2Cl, and CH2BrCD2Cl:
    Identification of the Cl-Br Interchange Reaction" J. Phys. Chem. A, 2010, 114, 4138-4147.
  • Duncan, Juliana R**; Roach, Michael S.**; Stiles, Brooke Sibila **; Holmes, Bert E., "Unimolecular Rate Constant and Threshold Energy for the HF Elimination from Chemically Activated CF3CHFCF3", J. Phys. Chem. A. 2010, 114, 6996.
  • Hixson, Susan; Chang, Eun-Woo; Holmes, Bert E., "Recent Trends in Instrumentation Requests to NSF’s CCLI Chemistry Program" J. Chem. Educ. 2010, 87(3), 247.
  • Everett, W. C.**; Holmes, B. E.; Heard, G. L.  "A Computational Study of the Threshold Energies of the 1,2-FCl Interchange Reaction of Chlorofluoroethanes" Can. J. Chem. 2010, 88, 1112-1117.
  • Lisowski, Carmen E.**; Duncan, Juliana R.;**; Ranieri, Anthony, J.;**; Heard, George L.; Setser, D. W.;  Holmes, Bert E., "Isomerization of Neopentyl Chloride and Neopentyl Bromide by a 1,2-Interchange of a Halogen Atom and a Methyl Group"  J. Phys. Chem. A. 2010, 114, 10395.
  • Duncan, Juliana R**; Heard, George L.; Holmes, Bert E., "Theoretical Investigation of 1,2-Interchange of a Chlorine Atom and Methyl Group in 1,1-Dichloroacetone"  J. Phys. Chem. A. 2010, 114, 12992-12997.
  • Enstice, Erin **; Duncan, Juliana R.**; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E., " Unimolecular Reaction in the CF3CH2Cl « CF2ClCH2F System:  Isomerization by Interchange of Cl and F Atoms." J. Phys. Chem. A. 2011, 115, 1054-1062.
  • Phelps, Randy; Holmes, Bert E. “Recent Trends in Chemistry Instrumentation Requests by Undergraduate Institutions to NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation Program" J. Chem. Educ. 2011, 88(2), 136.
  • Parworth, Caroline L.**; Tucker, Mary K.**; Holmes, Bert E.; Heard, George L. "QTAIM analysis of the 1,2-HF, HCl, HBr and HOH elimination reactions of halohydrocarbons and halohydroalcohols”  J. Phys. Chem. A. 2011, 115, 13,133-13,138.
  • Solaka, Sarah A.**; Boshamer, S. E.**; Parworth, Caroline L.**; Heard, George L.; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E.,  "Isomerisation of CF2ClCH2Cl and CFCl2CH2F Molecules by Interchange of Cl and F Atoms with Analysis of the Unimolecular Reactions of Both Molecules" Chem. Phys. Chem.  2012, 13(3), 869–878.
  • McDougal, Erin, E**; Holmes, Bert E. “Recent Trends in Chemistry Instrumentation Requests by Undergraduate Institutions to NSF’s Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Program" J. Chem. Educ. 2012, 89, 4.
  • Tucker, Mary, K**; Rossabi, Samuel M.**; McClintock, Corey, E.**; Heard, George L.; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E. “Unimolecular Isomerization of CH2FCD2Cl via the Interchange of Cl and F Atoms:  Assignment of the Threshold Energy to the 1,2-Dyotropic Rearrangement" J. Phys. Chem. A, 2013, 117, 6717-6723.
  • McClintock, Corey E.**; Smith, Kylie C.**; Heard, George L.; Setser, D.W.; Holmes, Bert E.  “The Effects of CF3 and CH3 Groups on the Threshold Energy for the Unimolecular Interchange Reaction of Cl- and F-Atoms in CF3CHFCH2Cl and CH3CHFCH2Cl”  J. Phys. Chem. A, 2014, 118(16), 2886-2896.
  • Turpin, Martha, A.**; Smith, Kylie C.**; Heard, George L.; Setser, D.W.; Holmes, Bert E. Holmes “Unimolecular Reactions of 1,1,1-Trichloroethane, 1,1,1-Trichloropropane and 3,3,3-Trifluoro-1,1,1-trichloropropane: Determination of Threshold Energies.”  J. Phys. Chem. A, 2014. 118(40), 9347–9356.
  • Rossabi, Samuel M.**; Smith, Kylie C.**; Heard, George L.; Holmes, Bert E.  “Unimolecular Rate Constants for the HF and HCl Elimination Reactions from Chemically Activated CF2ClSH” Int. J. Chem. Kinetics. 2015, 47(6), 380-388.
  • Wormack, Leah N.**; McGreal, Meghan E.**; McClintock, Corey E.**; Heard, George L.; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E.  “Characterization of the 1,1-HF Elimination Reaction from the Competition between the 1,1-HF and 1,2-DF Unimolecular Elimination Reactions of CD3CD2CHF2” J. Phys. Chem. A, 2015, 119(17), 3887-3896.
  • Brown, Timothy M.**; Nestler, Matthew J.**; Rossabi, Samuel M.**; Heard, George L.; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E. “Characterization of the 1,1-HCl Elimination Reaction of Vibrationally Excited CD3CHFCl Molecules and Assignment of Threshold Energies for 1,1-HCl and 1,2-DCl plus 1,1-HF and 1,2-DF Elimination Reactions.“ J. Phys. Chem. A, 2015, 119(36), 9441-9451.
  • Kim, Ju-Sung**; Brandt, Laura**; Heard, George L.; Holmes, Bert E. “Computational Study of the Threshold Energy for the 1,2-Interchange of X and R (X, R = Halogens, Pseudohalogens, and Monovalent Hydrocarbon Groups) on CH2XCH2R.”  Can. J. Chem. 2016, 94 (12), 1038-1043.
  • Larkin, Allie C.**; Nestler, Matthew J.**; Smith, Caleb A.**; Heard, George L.; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E. “A Chemical Activation Study of the Unimolecular Reactions of CD3CD2CHCl2 and CHCl2CHCl2 with Analysis of the 1,1-HCl Elimination Pathway.“ J. Phys. Chem. A, 2016, 120(42), 8244-8253.
  • Smith, Caleb A.**; Heard, George L.; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E. “Reinvestigation of the Unimolecular Reactions of CHF2CHF2:  Identification of the 1,1-HF Elimination Component from Addition of CHF2CF to trans-2-Butene.“ J. Phys. Chem. A, 2016, 120(47), 9357-9362.
  • Smith, Caleb A.**; Gillespie, Blanton R.**; Heard, George L.; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E. “The Unimolecular Reactions of CF3CHF2 Studied by Chemical Activation:  Assignment of Rate Constants and Threshold Energies to the 1,2-H-Atom Transfer, 1,1-HF Elimination and 1,2-HF Elimination Reactions and the Dependence of Threshold Energies on the Number of F-Atom Substituents in the Fluoroethane Molecules” J. Phys. Chem. A, 2017, 121(46), 8746-8756.
  • Brown, Timothy M.**; Gillespie, Blanton R.**; Smith, Caleb A.**; Nestler, Matthew J.** Heard, George L.; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E.  “Analysis of the Five Unimolecular Reaction Pathways of CHFClCD2Cl with Emphasis on Formation of :CFCD2Cl and :CClCD2Cl by 1,1-HCl and 1,1-HF Elimination” J. Phys. Chem. A, 2018, 122(43), 8446-8457.
  • Gillespie, Blanton R.**; Patel, Chaitanya A.;**; Rothrock, Mallory M.;** Heard, George L.; Setser, D. W.; Holmes, Bert E.  “Experimental and Computational Studies of Unimolecular 1,1-HX (X = F, Cl) Elimination Reactions of C2D5CHFCl: The Role of Carbene:HF and HCl Adducts in the Exit Channel of RCHFCl and RCHCl2 Reactions.” J. Phys. Chem. A, 2019, 123(13), 2621-2633.