IU Southeast
Fall 2013 27
Pappas said. “He gave
me inspiration and
motivation. He told me
I was wasting my talent as
a business major, and he
recruited me to be his lab
Pappas then studied
under chemistry
professor Ben Nassim,
the former dean of the
School of Natural Science,
who further inspired Pappas’
interest in organic chemistry.
While Pappas was completing
his undergraduate work at IU
Southeast, he was spending summers
in a research program at the University
of Tennessee. When he graduated with
his bachelor’s degree in 1990, Pappas
began pursuing his Ph.D. in chemistry
in Knoxville.
Finishing his graduate work in 1995,
Pappas was well-versed in everything
from quantummechanics to organic
But I still hadn’t even heard of
essential oils,” he said.
Making fragrance
After graduate school, Pappas and his
wife, Buffi, moved back to Indiana to be
close to family. He began teaching six
different chemistry and math courses to
students at Christian Academy during
the day, and chemistry to nursing and
medical students at IU Southeast and
the University of Louisville at night.
In search of a change, Pappas took a job
as the senior chemist at The Lebermuth
Company in the South Bend area.
Lebermuth is a family-run wholesale
fragrance manufacturing company that
has been in business since 1908.
That was my big introduction to
essential oils,” Pappas said. “I spent
two years getting exposed to everything
about the industry and what it takes to
control for quality.”
Rob Brown, president of The
Lebermuth Company, worked closely
with Pappas during those two years.
Dr. Pappas is an expert in
understanding, qualifying and
managing the chemistry of plants
that produce essential oils and
other aromatic extractions,”
Brown said.
Brown said Pappas
understands what makes
one oil better than
another, and how to
standardize and
blend materials to
achieve a consistent
product for consumers.
Pappas assisted with the formulation
of about 2,000 fragrances while
working at The Lebermuth Company,
he said.
His exposure to essential oils while with
the company changed the focus of his
career. He also re-entered the academic
world during that same time, teaching
a class titled “Chemistry of Essential
Oils” in 1997 at IU South Bend.
That class was a big deal because
it was the very first time anyone
had taught a class specifically about
essential oils in the country,” Pappas
said. “It was pretty exciting.”
The essential oils expert
In 1998, he left The Lebermuth
Company to start his own consulting
business, analyzing oil samples using
a method called gas chromatography-
mass spectrometry, or GC-MS. It’s a
method also used in drug detection,
fire investigations, and environmental
analysis. He also continued to teach.
His experiences at Lebermuth and
teaching at IU South Bend introduced
oils are very
relevant to
everyday life.”
Robert Pappas
At left, Pappas smells oils in his lab during testing. Above, Pappas displays various vials of essential oils.