Shawn Opfer ’19 is Researching Better Ways to Clean Up Oil Spills

Shawn Opfer ’19 is another Pacific University student whose study plans were disrupted by an encounter with computational chemistry.

He entered school expecting to become a physical therapist, but took a fermentation chemistry class that he says “was just a blast.”

Now he’s using computational chemistry to study the behavior of surfactant compounds, with an eye on real-world uses.

His current research “can improve or enhance any kind of soap, detergent; pretty much any kind of cleaning product,” he said. “This is really important for the remediation of oil spills.”

Opfer’s research experience has given him a window into how molecular simulations can affect the real world. Pacific is the No. 1 private research institution in the Pacific Northwest, according to a National Science Foundation survey. Pacific students have the opportunity to conduct original research and scholarship across the sciences, arts, humanities, education and business.

Opfer intends to continue working in computational chemistry, either by getting a job immediately out of Pacific or by continuing his studies in graduate school.

This story first appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Pacific Magazine. For more stories, visit

Tuesday, May 21, 2019