Leslie Sherman

  • W. Alton Jones Associate Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Science

Professor Leslie Sherman takes soil samples on a pineapple plantation in Costa Rica.

Leslie Sherman


  • (800) 422-1782, ext. 7497
  • Toll Science S215

Office Hours

Available by appointment


B.A. Carleton College

M.S.C.E. University of Minnesota 

Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison


My own experience as a college student at a small liberal arts college like Washington College, inspired me to become a teacher at a small school. My first teaching experience was actually as a Peace Corp Volunteer in West Africa, where I taught Chemistry and Physics. Currently, I have a dual appointment in Chemistry and Environmental Science and Studies here at Washington College. In addition to teaching Quantitative Chemical Analysis, I have developed several new courses for the Chemistry and Environmental Science and Studies departments, given my expertise in the air, water and soil chemistry of natural and polluted environments. 


Environmental Chemistry - Course description

In Environmental Chemistry we study the reactions controlling the cycling of both natural chemical species and anthropogenic pollutants in the water, soil and air environments of our earth system. The chemical processes operating in the natural environment, including acid-base, complexation, redox, photochemical and biotic degradation phenomena are examined. Throughout the course, the chemistry underlying current issues of water, soil and air pollution are studied. In the laboratory portion of the class, we investigate the water quality of local water bodies, including the Chester River, as well as analyze car exhaust from automobiles.



I am an environmental chemist whose primary research focus is the impact of land use on water quality and soil health. For over 15 years, I have been investigating soil chemical changes at a long-term grassland restoration site developed on low-production agricultural land at the College’s River and Field Campus. The primary management practice is prescribed burning every 2 to 3 years. I have been monitoring soil organic matter, pH, extractable metals, and cation exchange capacity, all indicators of soil health. I also study phosphorus cycling in nearby Urieville Lake, which suffers from extreme summer algal blooms. My primary focus is the sediments of the lake, which can bind phosphorus released into the lake from farm runoff, but which can release the phosphorus back into the lake under changing redox conditions and in response to physical disturbance.