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Paul Davis

Surface Science Lab Manager

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Paul Davis, Engineering, studio portraitPaul joined the Boise State University Department of Materials Science and Engineering as the Surface Science Laboratory Manager in May of 2012.  Prior to coming to BSU, Paul held positions as a Senior Scientist at Boise Technology, Inc. (2008-2012), an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA (2004-2008), and a postdoctoral teaching and research fellow at Santa Clara University (2002-2004).  As a result, Paul brings extensive research experience spanning physics, chemistry, and materials science to the Surface Science Lab Manager position.  In particular, he combines expertise in ultrafast nonlinear spectroscopy (including the surface specific technique of vibrational sum frequency generation, or VSFG), experience in the synthesis, characterization, and utilization of nanomaterials, and familiarity with numerous surface science tools, including AFM and SEM.

Paul earned a Ph.D. in chemical physics under the direction of Prof. Michael D. Fayer at Stanford University, where he utilized numerous ultrafast nonlinear spectroscopic techniques including infrared pump-probe, transient grating, and vibrational echo spectroscopy to study chemical structure and dynamics in a variety of condensed phase systems.  As a postdoctoral fellow at Santa Clara University, he managed an active undergraduate research group carrying out quantum yield measurements to study photoisomerization of diphenylbutadiene (DPB), a model compound for the vision chromophore retinal.  In addition, he continued to be involved in ultrafast nonlinear spectroscopy through collaborations at UC-Berkeley and UC-Santa Cruz that elucidated the excited state dynamics of diphenyloctatetraene (DPO) via pump-probe/transient absorption and the newly developed technique of femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy (FSRS).  Concurrently, he also made his first foray into materials science, overseeing a student carrying out undergraduate research at IBM’s Almaden Research Center involving the fabrication and characterization of nanoporous low k dielectrics.

During his time at Pacific Lutheran University, Paul directed undergraduate researchers in the synthesis and functionalization of colloidal gold and silica/gold core/shell nanoparticles for MALDI-TOF MS, SERS, and colorimetric assay detection of recombinant protein therapeutics.  In the course of this research, he and his students utilized numerous materials characterization techniques including time-dependent UV-Vis-NIR absorption, FTIR, Raman, DLS, TEM, SEM with EDS, AFM, XPS, XRD, and synchrotron-based XAS (EXAFS) and SAXS through research conducted at PLU and numerous university and national laboratory user facilities.  Subsequently at Boise Technology (BTI), Paul used VSFG spectroscopy to gain a molecular-level understanding of the interactions between solid surfaces, in particular polymers, and chemical weapons simulants as a function of chemical environment to aid in the rational design of new polyurethane-based chemical agent resistant coatings (CARC) with improved properties.  While at BTI, Paul enjoyed sponsoring two Senior Design Teams in the Materials Science Department at BSU, one of which utilized the Surface Science Laboratory AFMs.  Consequently he is excited to now work across disciplines with the numerous faculty, staff, and students that use the Surface Science Laboratory facilities to advance their research.


Ph.D. in chemical physics, Stanford University (2001)

B.S. in chemistry, summa cum laude, University of Tennessee (1995)

Representative Publications and Presentations


“Excitonic AND Logic Gates on DNA Brick Nanobreadboards,” B. L. Cannon, D. L. Kellis, P. H. Davis, J. Lee, W. Kuang, W. L. Hughes, E. Graugnard, B. Yurke, and W. B. Knowlton, ACS Photonics accepted (2015). doi:10.1021/ph500444d

“Volta Potentials Measured by Scanning Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy as Relevant to Corrosion of Magnesium Alloys,” M. F. Hurley, C. M. Efaw, P. H. Davis, J. R. Croteau, E. Graugnard, and N. Birbilis, Corrosion 71: 160-170 (2015). doi:10.5006/1432

“Medium Effects on the Direct Cis-Trans Photoisomerization of 1,4-Diphenyl-1,3-butadiene in Solution,” J. Saltiel, T. R. S. Krishna, K. Laohhasurayotin, Y. J. Ren, K. Phipps, P. H. Davis and W. A. Yee, J. Phys. Chem. A 115:  2120-2129 (2011).

“Synthesis and Stabilization of Colloidal Gold Nanoparticle Suspensions for SERS,” P. H. Davis, C. P. Morrisey, S. M. V. Tuley, and C. I. Bingham in Nanoparticles:  Synthesis, Passivation, Stabilization, and Functionalization, ACS Symposium Series, 996:  16-30 (2008).

“Vibrational Structure of the S2 (1Bu) Excited State of Diphenyloctatetraene observed by Femtosecond Stimulated Raman Spectroscopy,” P. Kukura, D. W. McCamant, P. H. Davis, and R. A. Mathies, Chem. Phys. Lett., 382:  81-86 (2003).

“Isomerization and Intermolecular Solute-Solvent Interactions of Ethyl Isocyanate:  Ultrafast Infrared Vibrational Echoes and Linear Vibrational Spectroscopy,” N. E. Levinger, P. H. Davis, P. K. Behera, D. J. Myers, C. Stromberg, and M. D. Fayer, J. Chem. Phys., 118:  1312-1326 (2003).

“Hydrogen Bond Dissociation and Reformation in Methanol Oligomers Following Hydroxyl Stretch Relaxation,” K. J. Gaffney, P. H. Davis, I. R. Piletic, N. E. Levinger and M. D. Fayer, J. Phys. Chem. A, 106:  12012-12023 (2002).

“Vibrational Relaxation of the Free Terminal Hydroxyl Stretch in Methanol Oligomers:  Indirect Pathway to Hydrogen Bond Breaking,” N. E. Levinger, P. H. Davis, and M. D. Fayer, J. Chem. Phys., 115:  9352-9360 (2001).


“VSFG Spectroscopy of Chemical Weapons Simulant Adsorption/Desorption at Barrier Material Surfaces,” P. H. Davis, B. L. Muñoz, C. P. McCann, D. R. B. Sluss, L. F. Scatena, and M. W. Hill, 58th Annual Western Spectroscopy Association Conference, Pacific Grove, CA, January 19, 2011.

“Surface Selective Spectroscopy of G-Agent Simulant Adsorption/Desorption at Barrier Material Surfaces,” P. H. Davis, B. L. Muñoz, D. R. B. Sluss, C. P. McCann, L. F. Scatena, and M. W. Hill, 2010 Chemical & Biological Defense Science & Technology Conference, Orlando, FL, November 16, 2010.

“A Molecular Level View of Chem/Bio Protective Materials:  Vibrational Sum Frequency Generation Spectroscopy of Polymer Surfaces & Chemical Weapons Simulants,” D. R. B. Sluss, P. H. Davis, B. L. Muñoz, L. F. Scatena, and M. W. Hill, 57th Annual Western Spectroscopy Association Conference, Pacific Grove, CA, February 4, 2010.

“Probing Changes in Polymer Surfaces in Response to Chemical Environment Via Vibrational Sum Frequency Generation Spectroscopy,” P. H. Davis, L. F. Scatena, C. K. Ewing, and M. W. Hill, 56th Annual Western Spectroscopy Association Conference, Pacific Grove, CA, January 28, 2009.

“Gold Nanoparticles for SERS, MALDI, and Colorimetric Detection of Molecules,” P. H. Davis, D. J. Hibbard, and J. A. Ebel, Division of Analytical Chemistry, 235th ACS National Meeting, New Orleans, LA, April 7, 2008.

“Gold Nanoparticle Aggregates for SERS,” C. I. Bingham, C. P. Morrisey, S. M. V. Tuley, and P. H. Davis, Division of Inorganic Chemistry, 233rd ACS National Meeting, Chicago, IL, March 27, 2007.

“Synthesis and Stabilization of Colloidal Gold Nanoparticle Suspensions for SERS,” S. M. V. Tuley, C. P. Morrisey, and P. H. Davis, Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry, 233rd ACS National Meeting, Chicago, IL, March 26, 2007.

“Gold Nanoparticles for SERS,” P. H. Davis, Fabrication and Characterization of Nanomaterials Short Course, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, January 12, 2006.

undergraduate co-author

Selected Honors, Awards, and Professional Activities

American Chemical Society member (1995-present)

Academic Advisor, Illuminate Consulting Group (2002-present)

Secretary, Western Spectroscopy Association (2009-2011)

Council on Undergraduate Research member (2004-2008)

MVP (Most Valuable Professor) Award, Santa Clara University Department of Athletics (2003)

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (1996-1999)

Paul J. Flory Fellowship in Physical Chemistry, Stanford University Chemistry Department (1995-1996)

Outstanding Senior Chemistry Major Award, East Tennessee Section of the American Chemical Society (1995)

Barry M. Goldwater Scholar in Mathematics, Science, & Engineering (1993-1995)

Member of ΦBK, ΦKΦ, ΣΞ, and OΔK