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Ruth E. Riter

Associate Professor of Chemistry
Agnes Scott College
141 East College Avenue
Decatur, GA 30030-3797

Bullock Science Center, 304W
Lab: Bullock Science Center, 306W

Research Interests 

My research interests center on studying chemical and physical changes that occur when molecules absorb light.  Recently, I have focused on investigating electron-transfer processes across reverse micelle interfaces using time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy.  The fluorescence spectrometer uses a pulsed, diode laser to excite the sample and monitors the fluorescence decay of the sample using time-correlated, single-photon counting electronics.  A number of Agnes Scott students have collaborated on this project.  These students have been involved in (1) preparing samples, (2) characterizing samples using various instruments in the department like the UV-Vis absorption spectrometer and the 400-MHz NMR, (3) obtaining data using the fluorescence spectrometer, and (4) analyzing data with various computer programs.  In addition, they have presented their work at American Chemical Society national meetings and SpARC, the Agnes Scott College Spring Annual Research Conference.  This project has been funded by a grant from the American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF) as well as Goizueta Research and Gary Collaborative Research grants administered by Agnes Scott College.

I also have a long-standing collaboration with Professor Nancy Levinger at Colorado State University.  This research has focused on studying the dynamics of polar solvents sequestered inside reverse micelles using femtosecond fluorescence upconversion spectroscopy.  While on sabbatical in 2009, I have been working on a new project with Professor Levinger and Professor Randy Bartels investigating molecular interactions between aromatic compounds using mid-infrared transient absorption spectroscopy.  This collaboration includes Sheneve Butler (’10). Sheneve is majoring in chemistry at Agnes Scott College and will work on the project at CSU during the summer.  She received support through a National Science Foundation-Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) award at CSU.

Teaching Interests 

My teaching interests focus on developing and incorporating effective learning strategies for students in general chemistry and upper-level analytical chemistry courses.   I have integrated an active-learning pedagogy called Process Oriented, Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) in my classes.  POGIL facilitates conceptual learning and the development of process skills such as information processing, problem solving, communication, teamwork, and assessment through in-class, group activities.  I have also initiated the use of Science Writing Heuristic in our general chemistry laboratory courses to enhance learning during lab activities.  This method effectively guides students to generate meaning from data, to make connections among procedures, data, results, and conclusions, and to engage in metacognition.

The POGIL project is a National Science Foundation-funded initiative that has developed sets of activities for various higher-education courses, facilitates workshops throughout the country for college and high school teachers, and provides support to the community of POGIL practitioners. I am a member of the ANA-POGIL consortium that is writing a set of analytical chemistry POGIL activities.  I have served on the advisory board of the Southeast Region POGIL consortium and have facilitated both Introduction to POGIL and Writing POGIL Activities workshops.

Recent Courses Taught at Agnes Scott



Che 101: Fundamental Concepts of Matter & Reactions


Che 102: Periodicity and Chemical Reactions


Che 211: Quantitative Chemical Analysis


Che 312: Instrumental Analysis


Che 101L: Basic Laboratory Methods I


Che 102L: Basic Laboratory Methods II


Che 342L: Physical & Instrumental Methods of Experimentation I*


Che 343L: Physical & Instrumental Methods of Experimentation II *


*Co-taught with Dr. Sarah Winget

Relevant Publications

Invited Work

Levinger, N. E. and R. E. Riter. “Dynamics of Polar Solvent Motion at Liquid Interfaces.” In Liquid Interfaces in Chemical, Biological, and Pharmaceutical Applications; Alexander G. Volkov, Ed.; Marcel Dekker: New York, 2001.

Original Work (peer-reviewed)

Tan, Howe-Siang, I. R. Piletic, R. E. Riter, N. E. Levinger, and M. D. Fayer. “Nanoscopic Water Dynamics in Reverse Micelles Measured with Ultrafast Infrared Vibrational Echo Spectroscopy.” Phys. Rev. Lett. 2005; 94, 057405(4).
Corbeil, E. M., R. E. Riter, and N. E. Levinger. “Cosurfactant Impact on Probe Molecule in Reverse Micelles.” J. Phys. Chem. B. 2004; 108, 10777.
Pant, D., R. E. Riter, and N. E. Levinger. “Influence of Restricted Environment and Ionic Interactions on Water Solvation Dynamics.” J. Chem. Phys. 1998, 109, 9995.
Levinger, N. E., R. E. Riter, D. M. Willard, D. Pant. “Solvation Dynamics in Restricted Environments: Immobilization in Reverse Micelles.” In Ultrafast Phenomena XI. Garmische-Partenkirchen:Germany, 1998.
Riter, R. E., E. P. Undiks, J. R. Kimmel, and N. E. Levinger. “Formamide in Reverse Micelles: When Structure Fails to Predict Dynamics.” J. Phys. Chem. B. 1998, 102, 7931.
Riter, R. E., E. P. Undiks, and N. E. Levinger. “The Impact of Counterion on Water Immobilization in Aerosol OT Reverse Micelles.” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1998, 120, 6062.
Willard, D. M., R. E. Riter, N. E. Levinger. “Dynamics of Polar Solvation in Lecithin/Water/Cyclohexane Reverse Micelles.” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1998, 120, 4151.
Riter, R. E., D. M. Willard, and N. E. Levinger. “Water Immobilization at Surfactant Interfaces in Reverse Micelles.” J. Phys. Chem. B 1998, 102, 2705.
Riter, R. E., J. R. Kimmel, E. P. Undiks, and N. E. Levinger. “Novel Reverse Micelles Partitioning Nonaqueous Polar Solvents in a Hydrocarbon Continuous Phase.” J. Phys. Chem. B 1997, 101, 8292.
Edington, M. D., W. M. Diffey, W. J. Doria, R. E. Riter, and W. F. Beck. “Dynamics of Light-Driven Electron Transfer in the Blue Copper Protein Plastocyanin.” Chem. Phys. Lett. 1997, 275, 119.
Edington, M. D., R. E. Riter, and W. F. Beck. “Femtosecond Transient Hole-Burning Detection of Interexciton-State Radiationless Decay in Allophycocyanin Trimers.” J. Phys. Chem. B 1997, 101, 4473.
Riter, R. E., M. D. Edington, and W. F. Beck. “Isolated-Chromophore and Exciton-State Photophysics in C-Phycocyanin Trimers.” J. Phys. Chem. B 1997, 101, 2366.
Edington, M. D., R. E. Riter, and W. F. Beck. “Interexciton-State Relaxation and Exciton Localization in Allophycocyanin Trimers.” J. Phys. Chem. 1996, 100, 14206.
Riter, R. E., M. D. Edington, and W. F. Beck. “Protein-Matrix Solvation Dynamics in the  subunit of C-Phycocyanin.” J. Phys. Chem. 1996, 100, 14198.
Edington, M. D., R. E. Riter, and W. F. Beck. “Evidence for Coherent Energy Transfer in Allophycocyanin Trimers.” J. Phys. Chem 1995, 99, 15699.