Skip To Main Content
Principia College Logo
Exploring the Chemistry of Chocolate with Dr. Jeff Cornelius

Dr. Jeffrey Cornelius (C'81) has taught physical, environmental, instrumental, and general chemistry at Principia College for over 25 years. He is active in the St. Louis section of the American Chemical Society, currently serving as an elected officer. Dr. Cornelius's graduate and postdoctoral work examined novel techniques of pulsed and high frequency electron paramagnetic resonance to determine structure. He has published widely in professional journals and is Principia’s Charles Stuart Harding Mott Distinguished Professor.

What do you love about teaching at Principia?

I like working with our students. I like to see them figure out how to answer their own questions and appreciate their own potential.

What research/special projects are you working on right now?

I am working on a project to determine the fat content of chocolate using a spectroscopic method of near infrared. I am excited to work on equipment donated by Affiliated Faculty member Dr. Ron Musselman to study single crystal polarized reflection spectroscopy of compounds. This helps us probe and understand the electron properties of solid formation. It’s very unusual for undergraduates to have ready access to so much high-level equipment.

Can you describe a few of the senior capstones you have sponsored?

In recent years, students have researched and presented capstones on topics ranging from the biomediation of diesel fuel in soil to the multistep synthesis of chrysanthemic acid to the isolation of oil from Jatropha seeds.

What internship opportunities has the department developed in recent years?

Students have gained valuable experience preparing for careers in chemistry through internships at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Colgate-Palmolive, and Washington University in St. Louis, just to name a few.

If you could give students only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Take advantage of asking questions, and challenge yourself to learn.

What led you to teaching?

I liked working as a teaching assistant when I was an undergraduate student. This led me to teach as a grad student and eventually to a teaching position at Principia College.

What work would you pursue if you weren’t a professor?

I would find some way to be an entrepreneur because I like figuring out how to solve problems.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I was an Eagle Scout and completed a project on helping special-needs individuals with scouting skills.

If you had a day off and weren’t allowed to use it to catch up on work, what would you do?

I would travel to a place where I have never been before.