Jeffrey Potoff

Jeffrey Potoff

Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs; Professor, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science

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Jeffrey Potoff


Department of Chemical Engineering, Wayne State University

  • Professor                      2014-present
  • Associate Professor     2007-2014
  • Assistant Professor      2001-2007


Post-Doctoral, Chemistry, University of Minnesota (advisor: J. Ilja Siepmann), 2000

Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, Cornell University (advisor: Athanassios Z. Panagiotopoulos), 1999

B.Sc, Chemical Engineering, Michigan State University, 1994

Courses Taught

  • ChE 2800 - Material and Energy Balances
  • ChE 3220 - Measurements Laboratory
  • ChE 3300 - Thermodynamics
  • ChE 3820 - Unit Operations Laboratory
  • ChE 7300 - Advanced Thermodynamics
  • BE 1100 - Introduction to Engineering
  • BE 1300/1310 - Science of Engineering Materials
  • BE 2550/3040 - Numerical Methods and Programming

Research Interests

Our research group focuses on the application of computer simulation at various length scales (sub-atomic, atomic, and mesoscale) to the following areas:

  • Force field development for complex fluids.
  • Vapor-liquid, solid-liquid equilibria and critical phenomena.
  • Prediction of environmental impact of energetic materials and chemical warfare agents.
  • Mechanisms of membrane fusion.
  • Novel materials development.

Research Projects


Research Statement and other Highlights:

Research in my group is focused on the application of quantum chemical calculations, molecular modeling, and computer simulation to understand complex processes at the nano-scale.  Our goal is to determine how atoms in molecules interact with each other, and how these specific interactions affect a variety of processes, which include vesicle fusion, adsorption, and the environmental impact of energetic materials.  Work performed in our lab is entirely computational, while necessary experimental validation is performed in collaboration with other academic research groups, and department of defense or department of energy laboratories (Argonne, Oak Ridge, USA-CERL).

Predicting Environmental Impact of Energetic Materials:

Electrostatic Potential Energy Surface for dinitroanisole (DNAN).

Contamination of soil and groundwater at Department of Defense facilities due to the manufacture and testing of energetic materials poses a significant threat to public health and the sustainability of weapons testing programs.  The prediction of environment fate of energetic materials from traditional QSPR methods is especially difficult because new explosive materials share little molecular similarity with compounds used in the QSPR training set.

In this work, transferable atom-based force fields (models) for energetic materials are developed, and these force fields are used in molecular dynamics simulations to predict physical properties, partition coefficients and transport properties that are key predictors of environmental fate for various energetic materials.  Quantum chemical calculations are used to determine likely mechanisms and rates of material degradation. This research is expected to identify specific molecular interactions responsible for poor environmental performance, and lead to the development of environmentally benign munitions.

Elucidationing the Mechanisms of Membrane Fusion

Illustration of Ca2+ bridges formed between apposed bilayers.  Such structures may act to nucleate mebrane fusion.

Membrane fusion is a fundamental life process, the importance of which is underscored by hundreds of published experimental studies focused on the search for minimal fusion machinery.  Atomic-level understanding of how vesicles fuse is expected to lead to the development of novel drug delivery systems and membrane based biosensors for biological and chemical agents.

Experimental studies have shown that the presence of Ca2+ is especially important, however, the precise role of Ca2+ in membrane fusion is currently unclear. 

Our group uses quantum chemistry and parallel molecular dynamics simulations to elucidate the role of Ca2+ and other divalent cations in membrane fusion.   We also used massively parallel molecular dynamics simulations investigate the interactions of various membrane proteins with lipid bilayers to determine the relationship between specific molecular structures and the rate of membrane fusion.


  • J. J. Potoff, Z. Issa, C. Manke and B. Jena, "Ca2+ - dimethylphosphate complex formation: providing insight into Ca2+ mediated local dehydration and membrane fusion in cells," Cell Biol. Int. 32, 361-366 (2008).

  • G. Kamath and J. J. Potoff, "Monte Carlo predictions for the phase behavior of H2S + n-alkane, H2S+CO2, CO2+CH4 and H2S+CO2+CH4 mixtures," Fluid Phase Equil. 246, 71-78 (2006).

  • G. Kamath, G. Georgiev, and J. J. Potoff, "Molecular modeling of phase behvaior and microstructure of acetone-chloroform-methanol binary mixtures," J. Phys. Chem. B 109, 19463-19473 (2005).

  • N. Lubna, G. Kamath, J. J. Potoff, N. Rai, and J. I. Siepmann, "Transferable potentials for phase equilibria. 8. United-atom description for thiols, sulfides, disulfides and thiophene," J. Phys. Chem. B 109, 24100-241007 (2005).

  • J. M. Stubbs, J. J. Potoff and J. I. Siepmann, "Transferable potentials for phase equilibria 6. United-atom description for ethers, glycols, ketones and aldehydes," J. Phys. Chem. B 108, 17596-17605 (2004).

  • J.J. Potoff and A. Z. Panagiotopolous, "Critical point and phase behavior of the pure fluid and a Lennard-Jones mixture," J. Chem Phys, 109, 10914-10920 (1998).

Awards and Honors

  • Detroit AICHE section, Chemical Engineer of the Year: 2008
  • College of Engineering Excellence in Teaching Award: 2003-2004
  • Engineering Student Faculty Board, Outstanding Faculty Service: 2002, 2003, 2004
  • Minnesota Supercomputing Institute Research Scholar: 2000