"Our group is interested in the chemical transformations that are relevant to feeding and fueling the planet. There are two efforts on this campus in artificial photosynthesis, and I participate in both."
Scientists and engineers around the world are working to find a way to power the planet using solar-powered fuel cells. Such green systems would split water during daylight hours, generating hydrogen that could be stored and used later to produce water and electricity. But robust catalysts are needed to drive the water-splitting reaction. Now Caltech chemists have determined the mechanism by which some highly effective cobalt catalysts work.
Caltech researchers have shown for the first time that a specific sugar, known as GlcNAc ("glick-nack"), plays a key role in helping cancer cells grow rapdily and survive under harsh conditions. The finding suggests new potential targets for therapeutic intervention.
Gregory C. Fu, a new faculty member and the Altair Professor of Chemistry at Caltech, uses his intuition and creativity to develop new chemical reactions that make chemical conversions more efficient—enabling organic chemists to convert reactants into their desired products in fewer steps or with higher yields than previously possible, for example. He talks about the creative aspects of organic chemistry, some of his current work, and making the move to Caltech.
Caltech chemists in the lab of Nobel laureate Bob Grubbs have developed a new class of catalysts that will increase the range of chemicals—from pharmaceuticals, insect pheromones, and perfume musks to advanced plastics—that can be synthesized using environmentally friendly methods.
"I grew up cooking, waiting tables, and doing dishes in the family diner in Chicago," says Jonas Peters. These days, as Caltech's Bren Professor of Chemistry, Peters is more an executive chef than a spatula jockey: he coordinates the menu and helps dream up the recipes for new molecules, but his students whip them up and wash the glassware.
Last fall, assistant professor of chemistry Long Cai received a New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—funding meant to both stimulate highly innovative research and support promising new investigators. Now, just nine months later, Cai has published the first results of his supported research.
Providing a possible new route to hydrogen-gas production, researchers at Caltech have devised a series of chemical reactions that allows them, for the first time, to split water in a nontoxic, noncorrosive way, at relatively low temperatures.
What's it like to build an entire research program from scratch? It's all about becoming part of a community, according to three brand-new professors who chat about their experiences in "From the Ground Up," an article in the Spring 2012 issue of Caltech's Engineering & Science magazine.
Sarah E. Reisman, an assistant professor of chemistry at Caltech, will receive the WCC Rising Star Award today, making her one of 10 midcareer women chemists to be honored with the award in its inaugural year. The distinction, bestowed by the Women Chemists Committee (WCC) of the American Chemical Society (ACS), will be presented at the society's 243rd national meeting in San Diego and is intended to help promote the retention of women in science.