Department of Chemistry

In academic year 2003, the Department of Chemistry continued its strong programs in research and undergraduate and graduate education. Associated with the department currently are 280 graduate students, 128 postdoctoral researchers, and 97 undergraduate chemistry majors. As of July 1, 2003, the Chemistry Department Faculty will comprise 31 full-time faculty members, including eight assistant, two associate, and 21 full professors, including one Institute Professor. Professor Troy Van Voorhis joined the department as an assistant professor on June 1, 2003, and Professors Mohammad Movassaghi and Sarah O'Connor will join the department as assistant professors on July 1, 2003.

Major Faculty Awards and Honors

Catherine L. Drennan ASBMB-Schering-Plough Research Institute Scientific Achievement Award, 2003 Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, 2003
Stuart S. Licht Medical Foundation New Investigator Award
Barbara Imperial 2003 Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow Award
Timothy F. Jamison 2002 Paul M. Cook Career Development Professorship 2003 Amgen Young Investigator Award
Stephen J. Lippard Basolo Medal of the Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society and Northwestern University
Alice Y. Ting National Institutes of Health (NHGRI) K22 Faculty Transition Award, 2003 Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award,
2003 Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award, 2002 Pfizer-Laubach Career Development Chair, 2002
Andre Tokmakoff Phi Lambda Upsilon National Fresenius Award

Infrastructure Developments

The third and final phase of the Building 18 Renovation Project is rapidly approaching completion; the new laboratories and desk areas have been completed and are nearly fully occupied. Faculty and staff, including those in the chemistry headquarters, moved back into the new South End offices and headquarters suite from the temporary faculty offices starting in October of 2002 as part of the Phase 2–3 transition. Phase 3 included construction of the remainder of the laboratory modules not previously renovated and the total integration of all laboratory and building services completed as part of the previous phases. Also included in this phase was the installation of new flooring, lighting, and painting of the corridors and elevator lobbies. Most of the mechanical infrastructure was replaced and a new roof installed. Final exterior waterproofing and landscaping are scheduled to be complete by mid August, 2003. The majority of interior spaces, with the exception of the main lobby, were renovated during the project. The interior spaces not included in the current scope were completed as part of a previous limited renovation. Renovation of the main lobby is planned to begin once funding has been completely secured.

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In the fall of 2002, 47 students entered the graduate program of the Chemistry Department, and from September 2002 through June 2003 the department awarded 28 PhD degrees.

Our department is very proud of its Chemistry Outreach Program, which was started in 1988. This program introduces local high school students to the excitement of chemistry through various demonstrations showing different chemical principles. Each year, our graduate students visit between 10 and 20 schools "to demonstrate the relevance of chemistry in everyday life, and to encourage students to consider pursuing careers in science and medicine" (see

Left to right: Karen Riesenburger, Steven Kaye, Han Sen Soo, Crystal Shih, S. Julie-Ann Lloyd, Zhi-Heng Loh, Tim Davenport, Gitanjali Singh, Eric Schwerdtfeger, Dina Feith, Jeremy Baskin, Brad Olsen, and Herman Lelie

In the area of undergraduate education, 28 students graduated in June with BS degrees in chemistry and 14 students completed the requirements for a minor in chemistry. At the annual Chemistry Majors' Dinner in May, the following recipients of the 2003 Undergraduate Chemistry Awards were announced:

The Merck Index Award for outstanding scholarship was presented to Eric Schwerdtfeger of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Zhi-Heng Loh and Han Sen Soo, both from Singapore, as well as Brad Olsen, a chemical engineering major from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, were joint recipients of the Alpha Chi Sigma Award, given in recognition of outstanding scholastic achievement, originality, and breadth of interest in chemistry and closely related fields.

Paul Peng of Wilmington, Delaware, received the Hypercube Scholar Award for outstanding achievement in the area of computational chemistry. The American Institute of Chemists Foundation Award, presented in recognition of outstanding achievement, ability, leadership, and character, was given to S. Julie-Ann Lloyd of Boston, Massachusetts. Freshman Timothy Davenport of Tulsa, Oklahoma, received the CRC Press Freshman Chemistry Achievement Award for outstanding academic achievement in chemistry.

The Frederick D. Greene Teaching Award for outstanding contributions in the area of teaching was presented to Dina Feith of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and Crystal Shih of Troy, Michigan. The American Chemical Society's Analytical Chemistry Award, presented for outstanding achievement by a junior in analytical chemistry, was given to Jeremy Baskin of Westmount, Quebec.

Seniors Herman Lelie of San Diego, California, Steven Kaye of Edison, New Jersey, Karen Riesenburger of Vineland, New Jersey, and Gitanjali Singh of Hunstville, Alabama, were recipients of the Chemistry Undergraduate Research Award for outstanding research in the field of chemistry. Han Sen Soo of Singapore was awarded the Strem Prize for excellence in undergraduate research at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

The department also expressed thanks to the undergraduates who worked this year as educators at MIT and in our community elementary schools. The following worked as teachers: Jyoti Agarwal, Jeremy Baskin, Sarah Chan, Roseanna Chickos, Shervin Fatehi, Dina Feith, S. Julie-Ann Lloyd, Neal Mankad, S. John Miyagi, Gitanjali Singh, Crystal Shih, Han Sen Soo, and Amanda Stockton. The following worked as tutors: Roseanna Chickos, Didi Ede, Dina Feith, Anna Hirsch, Herman Lelie, S. Julie-Ann Lloyd, Torsak Luanphaisarnnont, Neal Mankad, Sean Parris, Caroline Saouma, Gitanjali Singh, and Amanda Stockton.

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Research Highlights

Stephen L. Buchwald

The Buchwald lab has continued its work on the development of new cross-coupling methodology in organic synthesis. One of the methods developed—the coupling of amines with aryl halides and sulfonates—has become one of the most important new methods for discovery that chemists have developed in the last decade. It is important to note that MIT has a patent on this process.

Rick L. Danheiser

The development of a new class of activated imines, known as "iminoacetonitriles," was reported by the Danheiser group this year. These imines participate in various cycloaddition reactions and serve as useful building blocks for the synthesis of nitrogen-containing heterocyclic compounds.

Catherine L. Drennan

The Drennan laboratory has recently determined the first structure of a new class of metalloenzymes. These enzymes use AdoMet and an Fe4S4 cluster for radical generation and act on a wide variety of biomolecules. They are involved in vitamin biosynthesis, the conversion of nucleotides to deoxynucleotides, and UV–induced DNA damage. The three-dimensional protein structure provides insight into the fascinating radical-based chemistry of this enzyme superfamily.

John M. Essigmann

One area of research was on 8-oxoguanine, a promutagenic base formed by oxygen free radicals. For many years it has been considered a leading candidate as a cause of spontaneous mutations. The Essigmann group found that it decomposes readily to guanidinohydantoin, a spiro dihydantoin, oxaluric acid, urea, and oxazalone. Each of these secondary products is much more mutagenic than 8-oxoguanine. Moreover, they cause mutations that are observed frequently in human tumors. In a second area of research, the Essigmann laboratory synthesized a beta-estradienone tethered by an amino carbamate linker to an aniline mustard. This compound shows potent activity against prostate tumors in vivo.

Barbara Imperiali

A new research initiative focused on the development of chemical tools for the study of complex signal transduction pathways was established. Together with the Cell Migration Consortium supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Imperiali group developed new methods for the chemical synthesis of caged phosphopeptides and proteins as well as novel probes for studying kinase-mediated phosphorylation events in vitro and in vivo. Applications in the study of cell migration and cell cycle control are being investigated.

Stephen J. Lippard

Exciting advances in the Lippard laboratory during the past year include the discovery that cisplatin treatment of cells leads to specific modifications, acetylation, and phosphorylation of chromosomal histone proteins. Such alterations facilitate repair of DNA lesions formed by the platinum anticancer drug. In a second area, a fluorescent zinc sensor was devised that allows for the detection of zinc-induced damage in a population of hippocampal neurons in the brain following drug-induced epileptic seizures in rats.

Joseph P. Sadighi

Recent work in the Sadighi group has led to the synthesis of a two-coordinate copper alkyl and its facile reaction with CO2. A high-valent copper complex, supported by a heavily fluorinated, oxidation-resistant phenanthroline derivative, catalyzes nitrene transfer to certain arene carbon-hydrogen bonds.

Richard R. Schrock

A significant achievement in the Schrock laboratory in the last year was to use a triamido/amine complex of molybdenum, substituted with terphenyl substituents, to reduce dinitrogen catalytically at a single Mo center. This is the first time that such a result has been demonstrated for any metal in almost 40 years of transition metal dinitrogen chemistry.

Timothy M. Swager

Research in Tim Swager's group has produced a new optical sensor for chemical warfare agents. Swager's approach has higher sensitivity than existing technologies and has been licensed by Nomadics Inc., which has been contracted by the US Army for the development of prototypes. This technology is particularly attractive for the development of low-cost, light-weight, high-sensitivity sensors that can be used by dismounted soldiers in the field.

Alice Y. Ting

Research in the Ting group recently resulted in the development of new methodology for labeling recombinant proteins in cells with small molecules using engineered "fluorophore transferase" enzymes.

Stephen J. Lippard
Department Head
Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry

More information about the Department of Chemistry can be found on the web at


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