How different metals stick together

Editor: Tamara Hanna JEM: Esther RTP: Bryan Nolte

Cover artwork from Inorganic Chemistry featuring paper from the Thomas group

Metal-metal interactions are at the heart of some of the most interesting metal-catalyzed transformations and are found everywhere from Nature (metalloenzymes) to industrially important heterogeneous catalysis (surfaces, nanomaterials).  While textbooks have been written about metal-metal multiple bonds, surprising gaps in knowledge remain, including bonding between first row transition metals and bonding between different metals.  The Thomas group in the Brandeis Chemistry Department seeks to fill these gaps in knowledge through the systematic synthesis of heterobimetallic complexes featuring a wide range of different transition metals and developing a thorough understanding of the electronic structure and bonding of these novel compounds.

The latest issue of Inorganic Chemistry features cover artwork highlighting the recent paper from the Thomas laboratory titled “Exploring Trends in Metal–Metal Bonding, Spectroscopic Properties, and Conformational Flexibility in a Series of Heterobimetallic Ti/M and V/M Complexes (M = Fe, Co, Ni, and Cu).” The paper describes an extensive study of a series of Ti/M and V/M heterobimetallic complexes, where M is systematically varied across the periodic table from left to right (Fe, Co, Ni, Cu).  These complexes are classified as “early/late” heterobimetallic complexes because they feature one metal from the left half of the periodic table (“early”) and one metal from the right half of the periodic table (“late”).  The inherent differences between the properties of the two metals makes their metal-metal bonding quite polar and sensitive to a variety of different factors, but also poises these compounds for interesting reactivity because of the two electronically different metal sites presented. This latest installation from the Thomas group uncovers trends in metal-metal bond distance determined using X-ray crystallography, and uses a variety of spectroscopic (EPR, NMR, Mossbauer) and computational tools to probe the electronic structure of these compounds.  Most interestingly, these compounds are shown to be conformationally flexible, with ligand rearrangements occurring rapidly in solution and this ligand hemilability, which is ideal for facilitating reactivity, can be correlated directly with the strength of metal-metal interactions.

This paper was highly collaborative and its preparation involved researchers from both Brandeis and Harvard University. The synthesis and characterization of the new compounds were largely carried out by Bing Wu, a graduate student in the Thomas group, along with Chris Thomas herself. Matt Wilding, a recent Ph.D. graduate student from the Betley laboratory at Harvard University, assisted with the collection and interpretation of Mossbauer data and designed the cover artwork. Recent Ph.D. graduate Mark Bezpalko, of the Thomas/Foxman groups, and Bruce Foxman carried out all of the structural work in the Brandeis X-ray Diffraction Facility, and all of the computational studies were carried out by Bing Wu and Chris Thomas using the Brandeis high performance cluster.

Four Brandeis Science Grads Receive 2016 NSF Graduate Fellowships

GRFP_logoA science education at Brandeis University can be a springboard to future science achievements. We would like to congratulate four of our science graduates who have received the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships for 2016.

Noam Saper

Noam was an outstanding student graduating summa cum laude with highest honors in Chemistry in 2015. At Brandeis, Noam worked in the labs of Prof. Barry Snider and Prof. Christine Thomas. He co-authored 3 publications with Snider and Thomas.

Noam received multiple awards including the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship (2014); the Elihu A. Silver Prize (2014); and the Doris Brewer Cohen Endowment Award (2015).

Following graduation and enthralled by the mysteries of the west coast, he decided to attend the University of California, Berkeley. Noam is working on mechanistic studies of Ni-catalyzed diaryl ether hydrogenolysis in Professor John Hartwig’s laboratory.

Alexandra Sun

Another outstanding Chemistry student, Alexandra Sun graduated magna cum laude with highest honors in 2015. Alexandra also worked in Christine Thomas’ lab where she carried out research on Transition Metal Complexes Featuring a Redox-Active Bidentate Amido-Phosphido Ligand. Alexandra received the Melvin M. Snider Prize in Chemistry in 2015.

She is currently a first-year student in the Chemistry Department at the University of Michigan working with Professor Corey Stephenson on developing new methods in photoredox catalysis.

Abigail Zadina

Abigail received her BS/MS in Neuroscience in 2013. Working in Michael Rosbash’s lab, she was a co-author on 2 publications and received numerous awards including the Doris Brewer Cohen award and the Elihu Silver Prize. In 2013, Abigail discussed her science experience in the Brandeis publication Imprint.

Following graduation, Abigail worked at Columbia in Richard Axel’s lab. She is currently a PhD student in Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University.

Joseph Jacobowitz

Joseph Jacobowitz received his BS/MS in 2014, graduating summa cum laude with Highest Honors in Biochemistry. While a Brandeis undergraduate, Joseph co-authored a publication with his faculty mentor, Doug Theobald. In 2013, Joseph received the Division of Science Prize for Outstanding Research Accomplishment and the William P. Jencks  Award in Biochemistry in 2014.

Joseph is in the Biology PhD program at MIT, working for Jing-Ke Weng on the origins of chemodiversity in plants.

Summer Research at Brandeis

All four science graduates had the opportunity to jump start their careers by doing summer research at Brandeis. Noam, Alexandra and Joseph were Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF). Abigail received a Computational Neuroscience Traineeship.

These undergraduate research programs enable students to spend their summers at Brandeis engaged in intensive undergraduate training and summer research. Both programs provide a stipend, faculty mentoring and full-time lab research. The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows work culminates in a poster presentation summarizing their work. The SURF program is funded by generous donations from alumni. The Computational Neuroscience Traineeship program begins in the summer and runs through the following academic year. It is funded through a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

SPROUT Continues Growing Support for Brandeisian Innovators

Lil_Sprout_smallProgram Will Bestow Up to $100,000 to Promising Research Proposals

Could your research impact the world or do you have an idea that could create positive change? Need funding? SPROUT can help with that.

The popular SPROUT program, now in its sixth year, has announced increased funding for the 2016 round of proposals. SPROUT is funded by the Office of the Provost and run by Office of Technology Licensing. This year the Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center, recently created to support entrepreneurial and innovative collaborations happening across campus, contributed an additional $50,000 to be disbursed among the most promising requests.

Historically, the program has supported a diverse scope of lab-based innovations from all departments in the sciences  including Biology, Biochemistry, Physics, and Chemistry.  Past candidates have proposed projects ranging  from early‐stage research and development to patent‐ready projects ranging from treatments for diseases to lab tools.  Brandeis lab scientists have pitched their projects, including HIV vaccines (Sebastian Temme, Krauss lab),  neuroslicers (Yasmin Escobedo Lozoya, Nelson lab) and the use of carrot fiber as an anti-diabetic  (Michelle Landstrom, Hayes lab) to a panel of distinguished, outside judges. A SPROUT award can jumpstart your innovation and lead to continued opportunities. SPROUT awardees researching the use of carrot fiber as an anti-diabetic food agent were just awarded additional funding by the Massachusetts Innovation Commercialization Seed Fund program.

Other successful projects include “Enzymatic Reaction Recruits Chiral Nanoparticles to Inhibit Cancer Cells” led by Xuewen Du from the Xu lab, “Semaphorin4D: a disease‐modifying therapy for epilepsy” led by Daniel Acker of the Paradis lab, “X‐ray transparent Microfluidics for Protein Crystallization” led by Achini  Opathalage from the Fraden lab and “New and Rational Catalyst Development for Green Chemistry”  from the Thomas lab.  Those interested in learning more about past SPROUT winners are invited to read this recent Brandeis NOW article. A list of additional winners, along with their executive summaries, is available on the Brandeis OTL website.

Teams seeking support for scientific projects which require bench research, lab space, and/or lab equipment are encouraged to submit an abstract prior to the March 7 deadline. The competition is open to the entire Brandeis community including faculty, staff, and students. The Office of Technology Licensing will conduct information sessions on Thursday, February 25th 11:30 a.m.‐12:30 p.m. in Volen 201 and on Monday, February 29th 1:00 p.m.‐2:00 p.m. at the Shapiro Science Center, 1st Floor Library. Staff will address the application process as well as specific questions and interested applicants are highly encouraged to attend.

More details regarding the SPROUT awards, process and online application may be found at

Why we love basic research

Brandeis PhD students Jonathan Napoline (Graduate Program in Chemistry, Thomas lab) and Sara Haddad (Graduate Program in Neuroscience, Marder lab) tell PBS NewsHour why they’re excited about basic research



Noam Saper ’15 named Goldwater Scholar

Noam Saper ’15, a Brandeis Chemistry major, has been named a Goldwater Scholar by The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. An exceptional student, Noam has been doing research with Christine Thomas and also with Barry Snider, seeking out experience in both organic and inorganic synthetic chemistry, with publication in press already from each lab.  Noam was a 2013 recipient of a Division of Science Summer Research Fellowship and a Teaching Assistant for Organic Chemistry Lab. He is also a Lerman-Neubauer Fellow, an Undergraduate Departmental Representative for Chemistry, and an active member in the Brandeis Orthodox Organization, In short, Noam is a hard-working and engaged member of the Brandeis community, and very deserving of this distinctive honor.


Noam presenting at a recent ACS national meeting

The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 117 Marshall Awards, 112 Churchill Scholarships, and numerous other distinguished fellowships such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships.

What’s new in synthetic inorganic chemistry

Associate Professor of Chemistry Christine Thomas is featured in an American Chemical Society “virtual issue” on young investigators leading the field of synthetic inorganic chemistry in new and exciting directions.

One of the Thomas’s lab new inorganic creations (see Kuppuswamy et al., Inorg. Chem., 2013, 52 (9), pp 4802–4811)

Usman Hameedi ’08 writes about the Science Posse experience

UsmanUsman Hameedi ’08, a member of the first Science Posse at Brandeis, has written about his experience in a piece that recently appeared at Huff Post College. Hameedi, a Biology major, scientist, poet, and aspiring doctor, tells the story of the grand experiment that was the first posse:

Science Posse was new to everyone at Brandeis — the students, the mentors, the faculty and the administration. You could tell there was a lot of interest in making it a success. People wondered: Was this too ambitious? Would this work? […]

Left: Hameedi in his Brandeis days, working in the Thomas Lab.

Thomas to receive 14th Annual Strage Award

On March 26, 2012, Professor Gregory A. Petsko wrote on behalf of the Strage Award Selection Committee:

It is with great pleasure that I announce the recipient of this year’s Strage Award for Aspiring Young Science Faculty, Dr. Christine Thomas of the Chemistry Department.

Christine is one of the most promising young chemists in the country. In 2010, Prof. Thomas was selected for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Early Career Research Program and in 2011, she was named an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow. Christine is also the recipient of a 2012 National Science Foundation CAREER award and was selected as a 2012 Organometallics Fellow. Christine’s dedication to teaching was recognized with the 2012 Michael L. Walzer ‘56 Award for Excellence in Teaching at Brandeis.

Her research focuses on utilizing creative new strategies for the design of catalysts that have the potential to promote the multi-electron, multi-proton conversion of abundant small molecules (CO2, CH4, H2, N2, etc) into  useful fuels. The long-term goal of her program is nothing less than the development of solutions to the nation’s energy generation and storage problems. The catalysts she is currently designing all involve the cooperation  between different components of bifunctional catalysts. Specifically, her group is examining the cooperation  between (1) two metal centers in bimetallic frameworks, (2) metal centers and a non-innocent ligands, and (3) metal centers and their secondary coordination spheres, and the unique effects that such cooperation can have on the reactivity of these species.

Please join me in congratulating Christine on winning this award, and bring your students and postdocs t0 her Strage Award Lecture. The award ceremony and lecture will take place on Wednesday, April 3, in Gerstenzang 123 at 1:00 pm.

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