Deanna Donohoue poses for a photo on Main Hall Green.
Portrait on Main Hall Green: Deanna Donohoue (Photo by Danny Damiani)

About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different faculty member every two weeks — same questions, different answers.


Deanna Donohoue isn’t ever too far from her beloved ARTEMIS.

The Lawrence University assistant professor of chemistry developed ARTEMIS — Atmospheric Research Trailer for Environmental Monitoring and Interactive Science — as a science lab on wheels. It’s a low-cost, mobile laboratory for atmospheric measurements, allowing her and her students to monitor and learn about air quality and the effects of things like oil and gas activity and sand mining.

Donohoue earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and a Ph.D. in marine and atmospheric chemistry from Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami. She joined the chemistry faculty at Lawrence in 2013. Her work with ARTEMIS has included, among other things, monitoring air quality in the Bakken Shale basin in and around western North Dakota and eastern Montana and near a sand quarry in Fremont, Wisconsin.

When it’s not on duty, ARTEMIS is often being shown by Donohoue to school groups or others willing to listen — because science in fascinating and cool and fun, and Donohue has a deep desire to spread the love.

We caught up with Donohoue to talk about her work and her interests on and off campus.

In the classroom 

Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?

I give extra credit for failure. I think so often a student enters a class thinking that they should get every answer right and never make a mistake. But this is just not possible; we all come into a class with different experiences and backgrounds. My job is to push you all to grow in your knowledge. If you know or immediately understand everything I present in class, then I have failed you. I need to push you into spaces that you are unsure of the answer and into spaces where you make mistakes because it is through those experiences that you will learn the most deeply. So in my class, you do not get extra credit for knowing all the answers. You get extra credit for pushing yourself into the unknown and trying.

Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited?

This is a hard one, as I love all of the work I do at Lawrence. But if I have to pick one to tell you about, it is the development of my mobile air quality lab — ARTEMIS. Before I started my Ph.D., I said I wanted a magic school bus, and now I have one. ARTEMIS is a small trailer filled with instruments that measure air quality that can be taken anywhere. Students and I have taken a 14-day trip through areas of heavy oil and gas development in North Dakota and Montana. We took it to Pennsylvania to look at the impacts of aging oil and gas wells on methane emissions and ozone production. More recently, ARTEMIS was sitting in a field about 30 minutes from campus to measure the impacts of sand mining on local air quality. It really is a magic school bus that lets me explore the world of atmospheric chemistry.

Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional or spiritual) that took you by surprise?

I picked a field in chemistry that would let me travel and have many adventures. Last year, I had to replace my boots, and I thought about all the places I’ve been and experiences I’ve had wearing those boots. I wore those boots looking at faraway galaxies through a telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They got all scratched up working on volcanos in Nicaragua and Italy. They carried me through the snow in Barrow, Alaska, and through the mud in the Florida Everglades. I was surprised about how much of my career was contained in those boots, and it was hard to let them go. But I did, replacing them with the exact same boots. Now I am ready to spend 15 years creating science and stories in these boots.

Open Office with Deanna Donohoue

Lawrence students visit the office of Deanna Donohoue, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies and connect on interests in and out of the classroom.

Out of the classroom 

This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing? 

I would open a bakery. I love to create new recipes — which often fail — and share those treats. Students can tell you; you never know what treats might appear in the first floor Chem office suite.

Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus?

I find Sabin House a wonderful retreat from the hustle and bustle of campus. Whether working on my research, having a group meeting, or just finding some time to slow down, the open door of Sabin House helps me be my best self.

One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry speaks to my soul, I can settle in and watch the TV show Leverage any day, and right now the song What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes is getting me ready for the day, and, more importantly, ready to dance!