Project Overview

Using novel and established pyridine alkoxide ligands to study exotic transition metal clusters and high oxidation states, and their applications toward oxidative catalysis

Faculty Sponsor

Dimitar Shopov (




Our research will be in the area of inorganic chemistry, where we will focus on exploring how we can control the structural and reactive properties of transition metal centers by coordinating different organic molecules (ligands) to the metal. More specifically, we will be using and synthesizing ligands that contain pyridine and tertiary alkoxide coordinating groups, some of which will be completely novel molecules. These ligands have shown great potential for promoting unusually high metal oxidation states, while at the same time being highly resilient to harsh oxidizing conditions that destroy most organic compounds. Both of these properties make pyridine-alkoxide ligands especially suitable for supporting metal catalysis for the oxidation of substrates like water or organic molecules. Furthermore, complexes of these ligands with iridium and ruthenium give rise to unique oxo-bridged dimers that have performed exceptionally well for water oxidation catalysis, and merit further investigation. Working on this project, students will gain experience in a wide array of experimental and analytical methods. These will include organic and inorganic synthesis, standard and custom separation techniques, handling of air/moisture sensitive as well as highly oxidized compounds, performing catalytic assays, and characterizing compounds using X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, UV-visible spectroscopy, and electrochemistry. We may also employ computational chemistry (DFT) in support of our analytical work. Emphasis in our research is placed on creative problem-solving rather than over-reliance on routine methodology. This means we frequently need to develop our own adaptations of techniques in order to pursue the exotic compounds that we are interested in. Strong and creative critical thinkers will be best suited for this type of research environment. Applicants from all years are welcome, though priority will be given to students with inorganic chemistry experience.

Student Qualifications

Students should have completed General Chemistry at least, and be majoring or intend to major in Chemistry or Biochemistry. Inorganic chemistry and lab are highly recommended, and organic chemistry is helpful, but neither are strictly required.

Number of Student Researchers

2 students

Project Length

8 weeks

Applications open on 10/03/2023 and close on 02/28/2024

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (