Project Overview

Bifunctional Catalysts for the Hydrogenation and Dehydrogenation of Polar Bonds

Faculty Sponsor

Anthony Chianese (




The goals of the project
This NSF-funded project is directed at the development and mechanistic characterization of ruthenium- and iron-pincer catalysts for the hydrogenation and dehydrogenation of polar bonds. This project has potential significance in the sustainable storage of solar energy and the development of more environmentally friendly methods of organic synthesis. As the research is conducted entirely by undergraduate students, the project has a strong potential to facilitate the training of future scientists.
Description of the project
We aim to develop new catalysts for the hydrogenation and dehydrogenation of polar substrates, with a particular focus on expanding the utility of first-row transition metals for processes that are currently challenging, such as ester hydrogenation and the hydrogenation of carbon dioxide to methanol. Based on a detailed consideration of current knowledge, we are developing catalysts based on two design principles: 1) ligands able to reversibly accept and donate a proton in the vicinity of the metal center are expected to promote a cooperative mechanism for hydrogen activation and transfer to polar substrates; and 2) multidentate pincer ligands containing strongly donating, strong-field N-heterocyclic carbene fragments are expected to engender robust catalysts resistant to one-electron redox processes.
Expected outcomes
As research results are obtained, the eventual outcomes will be: 1) publication in high-impact journals in the field with the undergraduate students as co-authors, and 2) faculty and student presentation of the research results at national meetings of the American Chemical Society. The group has a strong history of achieving both these outcomes in the past. For example, since 2007 the Chianese group has published 9 peer-reviewed papers, with 17 different Colgate students included as co-authors. A list of student-coauthored publications is available at
The role of the student and impact on the student
As early as their freshman year, students in the PI’s laboratory are involved in original research projects during the summer and academic year. Undergraduates participate intellectually in all aspects of their research, including the conception of ideas, literature searching, the design and implementation of experiments, and their interpretation. Students participate in the preparation of manuscripts for publication and present their results at regional and national meetings. As a result, undergraduate students in the Chianese group gain specific experience in the field of synthetic organometallic chemistry and develop a general perspective on how scientific knowledge is produced and disseminated.

Student Qualifications

Interested students should be taking Chemistry classes, and in most cases should intend to major in Chemistry or Biochemistry. Students are encouraged to join the group early in their Colgate career, to have the best chance of making a sustained contribution to the research.

Number of Student Researchers

4 students

Project Length

10 weeks

Applications open on 01/05/2018 and close on 02/05/2018

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (