School Seminar: Prof. Nathaniel Szymczak, University of Michigan
Moving Beyond the Metal: Assisted Small Molecule Activation
Wednesday, 1 March – 11:00am – 12:00pm (MIH, School Seminar)
Location: Chemistry Lecture Theatre 4 and Online (Zoom)
Speaker: Prof. Nathaniel Szymczak, University of Michigan
Host: Prof. Kate Jolliffe
Bio: Nathaniel (Nate) Szymczak was born in Wollongong, Australia. In 2002 he received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry (with a specialization in environmental chemistry) from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. In the fall of 2002, Nate began doctoral studies under the direction of David Tyler at the University of Oregon. His graduate research focused on water-soluble transition metal dihydrogen and dinitrogen complexes as well as hydrogen-bonding interactions of a coordinated H2 ligand. As part of an NSF-IGERT graduate fellowship, he participated in a brief internship at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and worked with Dr. John Linehan to uncover the mechanism of hydrogen release from hydrogen storage materials, as well as to elucidate the active catalyst structure using Operando XAS methods.
He was awarded a Ph.D. in 2007, and following doctoral studies, he pursued postdoctoral research with Professor Jonas Peters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology. His work focused on the development of bimetallic macrocyclic coordination complexes for electrocatalytic proton reduction and other multi-electron transformations at ambient and elevated pressures. In 2010, Nate joined the faculty at the University of Michigan and his research program uses principles of main group and transition metal chemistry to address biochemical questions and challenging synthetic problems of global importance.
Abstract: Well-defined synthetic molecules that replicate key structure and/or reactivity patterns of metalloenzymes can provide structure/function correlations and answers to biochemical questions that are otherwise challenging to address. In contrast to the suite of inter/intramolecular interactions that facilitate small molecule binding and activation in enzymes found in nature, the commonly used strategies to construct analogous synthetic molecular systems are limited. The current paradigm in the synthetic community to prepare such analogues primarily focuses on a single active metal site with ligands that impart steric and electronic tunability to achieve substrate binding and activation, with limited attention paid to the secondary interactions of appended groups. Taking inspiration from biological systems, our group is working to develop strategies to exploit acidic and basic groups (hydrogen bond donors, Lewis acids/bases) to promote cooperative interactions and address unanswered mechanistic biochemical questions. This presentation will emphasize how Lewis acids can be used to augment metal-based reactivity, as well as to show how incorporation of these units within a ligand scaffold can provide access to unique activation/functionalization processes.