Theodor Agapie

Scholar: 2010

Awarded Institution
Assistant Professor
California Institute of Technology
Division of Chemistry


Research Interests

Molecular Solutions to Problems Related to Energy, Materials and Health

Our research will focus on developing molecular solutions to problems related to energy, materials, and health. Having nature as a source of inspiration, we will develop and study systems displaying interactions between multiple molecular centers (metals, Lewis acids, hydrogen bonding functionalities, etc.) to facilitate a variety of chemical processes.

From a small molecule perspective, we will target systems able to perform transformations important in organic methodology, new materials generation as well as in the context of the energy economy. Areas of interest include selective C-H bond functionalization, polymerization of polar monomers, and multielectron processes such as water oxidation to dioxygen and dinitrogen fixation. To attain these goals we will design and synthesize ligand frameworks that allow for the binding of several metals in close proximity. Hydrogen bonding networks and pendant Lewis acids will be built in if believed to be important for the desired transformations. The synthesized multimetallic complexes will be studied using a variety of spectroscopic tools to understand their electronic structure and its effects on reactivity. The lessons learned from these studies will be used to ultimately develop molecular catalysts for chemical processes of importance in today's world.

In a biochemical context, we will study interactions and transformations involving bioinorganic molecules. One topic of interest regards the properties and reactivity of protein-embedded clusters. Metal clusters perform a variety of biological functions, ranging from electron transfer and signaling to catalysis of complex transformations. Our initial focus will be on the biochemistry of iron-sulfur clusters. Proteins displaying iron-sulfur clusters will be expressed in high yields to allow for active site engineering and reactivity studies. These studies will improve our understanding of the strategies evolved by Nature to facilitate chemical transformations using metal clusters. One potential application will be the design of biocatalysts for the generation of fuels from water or carbon dioxide.