Amy E. Keirstead

Dr. “K” is a physical organic chemist who originally hails from the wilds of Nova Scotia, but has made her home in Maine and at UNE since 2008. A two-time recipient of the Debra J. Summers Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence, she primarily teaches organic chemistry lecture and laboratory, as well as mechanistic organic chemistry and the chemistry seminar course, and is notorious for being very excited about all things o-chem even during her 8 am lectures. Dr. K engages undergraduate students in her research program that uses organic chemistry to learn about the properties of novel materials for nanotechnology applications, and is passionate about incorporating green chemistry into the undergraduate curriculum and student activities, having spearheaded UNE's adoption of the Green Chemistry Commitment in 2018. She works closely with the American Chemical Society (ACS) as a member of the ACS Undergraduate Programs Advisory Board and serves as the Student Groups Coordinator for the Maine Local Section (MEACS). In her free time, she enjoys working in her garden, crafting, and spending time with her husband and their pets. 

Dr. Keirstead is currently serving as the (interim) Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, thus her teaching activities will be limited in the 2018-19 academic year. 



B.Sc. (Honours)

Bishop's University (Quebec, Canada)



Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia, Canada)


Post-Doctoral Training

Research Group of Prof. Devens Gust

Arizona State University




Physical organic chemistry

organic photochemistry

laser flash photolysis

green chemistry.


Current Research

Currently, three projects are under investigation the Keirstead research group at UNE. Each project employs a photochemical probe reaction that was selected to learn more about the physicochemical properties of ionic liquids. Ionic liquids (ILs) are thought to be "green" alternatives to conventional solvents for chemical processes and could be employed in nanotechnology devices.

1) Quantifying the cage effect of ionic liquids using the photo-Fries reaction.

The goal of this project is to learn more about the "cage effect" of ILs, or how ILs "restrict" species within a solvent cage. A large cage effect could reduce the efficiency of a photovoltaic cell that uses an IL as the electrolyte, or could influence the product distribution of a chemical reaction.

2) Examining the photochromism of spiropyrans in ionic liquids using emission spectroscopy.

To explore the feasibility of using ILs as solvents for molecular devices, we are examining the dynamics of spiropyran photochromism in ILs. Spiropyrans are a class of photochromic "on-off" molecular switches that could be used as molecular electronic devices. We have used emission spectroscopy to show that the dynamics of the switch are slowed in ILs compared to molecular solvents, due to the unique properties of ILs. Specifically, our system could be used as a robust two-color (red and blue) emitting molecular switch.

3) Investigating the influence of ionic liquid media on the photoluminescence of siloles (with Jerry Mullin, UNE and Hank Tracy, USM).

Siloles are a class of substituted silacyclopentadienyl molecules that are thought to have applications as sensors and luminescent optoelectronic devices, e.g., OLEDs. Siloles typically have low fluorescence quantum yields when dissolved in organic solvents, but their emission increases when in a viscous or polar medium. In this project, we are investigating how the unique properties of ILs influence the photoluminescence of siloles, and in turn, more about the physicochemical properties of ILs.

Research Interests

My research program uses photochemical probe reactions to learn about the properties of novel materials for use in green chemistry and nanotechnology applications. While my current focus is on ionic liquids, I am also interested in other heterogeneous media such as  zeolites and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). 

Selected Publications


1,1-Dimethyl-2,3,4,5-tetraphenylsilole as a Molecular Rotor Probe to Investigate the Microviscosity of Imidazolium Ionic Liquids. Scalise, Regina E.*; Caradonna, Peter A.*; Tracy, Henry J.; Mullin, Jerome L.; Keirstead, Amy E. Journal of Inorganic and Organometallic Polymers and Materials 2014, 24 (2), 431-441. (*UNE undergraduate students)


Direct observation of spiropyran phosphorescence in imidazolium ionic liquids. Naughton, Sean P.*; Gaudet, Robyn M.*; Leslie, Anne A.*, Keirstead, Amy E. Chemical Physics Letters 2013, 556, 102-107.  (*UNE undergraduate students)


Photochemical Triode Molecular Signal Transducer.  Keirstead, Amy E.; Bridgewater, James W.; Terazono, Yuichi; Kodis, Gerdenis; Straight, Stephen; Liddell, Paul A.; Moore, Ana L.; Moore, Thomas A.; Gust, Devens.  Journal of the American Chemical Society 2010, 132(18), 6588-6595.


1-(3'-amino)propylsilatrane derivatives as covalent surface linkers to nanoparticulate metal oxide films for use in photoelectrochemical cells.  Brennan, Bradley J.; Keirstead, Amy E.; Liddell, Paul A.; Vail, Sean A.; Moore, Thomas A.; Moore, Ana L.; Gust, Devens.  Nanotechnology 2009, (20), 505203 (10 pp).


Porphyrin-Based Hole Conducting Electropolymer. Liddell, Paul A.; Gervaldo, Miguel; Bridgewater, James W.; Keirstead, Amy E.; Lin, Su; Moore, Thomas A.; Moore, Ana L.; Gust, Devens. Chemistry of Materials 2008, 20 (1), 135-142.

Funded Grants

2010: "Exploring the Influence of Organized Media on the Photoluminescence Behavior of Siloles" ($25,000/1 year), funded by the Maine Space Grant Consortium Maine Space Grant Education and Seed Research Program (MSG/ESR). With co-PIs Jerome Mullin (UNE) and Hank Tracy (USM).

2011: "Using the photo-Fries reaction as a photochemical probe to quantify the cage effects of ionic liquids" ($50,000/2 years) from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.

2012:  MRI: Acquisition of a Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry Instrument for Research and Teaching. Ursula Roese PI; with co-PIs Amy Deveau, Teresa Dzieweczynski, Amy Keirstead and Stephan Zeeman ($137,527/2 years) from the National Science Foundation.


Research Topics


Amy E. Keirstead



Associate Professor, Chemistry

Interim Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

Biddeford Campus

Decary Hall

(207) 602-2261

On Campus