Chemistry at the University of Alberta is a diverse and world-renowned field of study.
Presently, it is one of the largest chemistry departments in Canada with about 40 faculty, 50 post-doctoral fellows and 130 graduate students. Over 4,000 undergraduates annually take courses offered by the department. It continues to be well-known internationally for the quality and rich variety of the research undertaken by the faculty. The fact that the members of the department annually attract about $4 million in research funding attests to the vibrancy of the research program, the competence of the support staff and the stimulating collegiality of the faculty.
The Analytical Division at Alberta is among the strongest in North America. The aim of a large part of the division's research is to advance state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation and techniques through increased understanding of the fundamental principles involved. Applying these techniques and methods to a variety of problems complements the research.
Fred Cantwell's, FCIC, research interests encompass the fields of liquid chromatography (LC), solvent extraction and metal ion speciation. He has made significant contributions to the understanding of ion-pair chromatography in term of electrical double layer theory. Determining the concentration of free-metal ions in complex samples such as waste water or body fluids is a difficult problem in metal-ion speciation. Cantwell has developed a powerful analytical tool to address these problems that uses an immobilized ligand in packed columns and atomic absorbance spectroscopy for detection.
Leading the world in DNA sequencing
Norm Dovichi, FCIC, is developing and applying highly sensitive laser-based techniques for the analysis of nanoliter volume samples, which are frequently coupled to high-efficiency capillary separation techniques. His group has developed highly sensitive and efficient separation and detection. methods for derivatized amino acids and DNA fragments.
Dovichi was awarded both the Steacie Prize and an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship this year, and his lab has been described as a world leader in advanced DNA sequencing techniques. Cantwell will be presented with the Fisher Award and Dovichi with the Noranda Award at the Canadian Chemical Conference and Exhibition in Edmonton in June.
Professor Emeritus Walter Harris, FCIC, was responsible for establishing and guiding the development of the analytical program at the University of Alberta. He remains an active researcher, with interests in chemical safety and hazardous waste treatment and disposal. Jed Harrison's research program involves the development of chemical sensors for clinical, environmental and laboratory analysis. Much of this work has focused on the use of semiconductor device fabrication techniques to prepare novel microstructures for electro-chemical sensors. His group has developed new materials to improve the stability of such sensors, and new optical and electrical instrumentation which can be used to increase a fundamental understanding of the potential determining phenomena in ion-selective membranes.
Recently, this group has shown that the technique of silicon micro-machining can be used to prepare complex chemical analysis systems on a silicon chip. This promises to become an exciting new direction in the field of chemical sensors.
Gary Horlick's interests are in analytical spectroscopy, particularly atomic emission and mass spectroscopy. He has long been known for his work with the inductively coupled plasma (ICP), particularly in understanding the atomic and ion populations within the plasma and for research of Fourier transform spectrometers for atomic emission. More recently his group has done ground-breaking research in developing an understanding of the parameters that affect ICP mass spectrometry performance. He has received numerous awards, including the Fisher Award in Analytical Chemistry.
Research in the areas of sampling for chemical analysis and speciation of metal ions in solution are the interests of department chairman Ron Kratochvil, FCIC. He won the 1991 Fisher Award for his work in these areas. The sampling studies are designed to improve the understanding of the relation between heterogeneity of a bulk material and the extent and nature of the sample collection required to obtain meaningful analytical information. The work involves sampling particulate materials such as soil and biological materials and uses neutron activation analysis and atomic absorption and emission spectroscopies.
Liang Li, MCIC, joined the department in 1989; his research program focuses on mass spectrometric MS) techniques coupled with laser desorption and laser-induced multi-photon ionization. He has recently developed a new LC-MS interface based on pulsed, rapid heating of the eluent to introduce sample in a pulsed mode into a time-of-flight MS.
Laser-based ionization techniques are coupled to this interface to generate ions. Fundamental studies on laser desorption and multi-photon ionization in MS are also underway in his laboratories.
Studying anti-tumor drugs
The use of electrochemical techniques for the analysis of anti-tumor drugs and the study of their interaction with DNA is one of Jim Plambeck's major research interests. The effect of binding of drugs to DNA on their electrochemical properties reveals information on the function and effects of the anti-tumor drugs. His other interests include environmental studies and corrosion.
The broad range of interests of the analytical faculty provides the basis for a strong set of graduate courses covering all aspects of modem analytical chemistry. Laboratory work is a major component of these courses, giving hands-on experience with a wide variety of analytical instruments and methodology.
With a mandate to study over 99% of the elements in the Periodic Table, it's not surprising that inorganic chemistry continues to be a growing and exciting field of research. The research of the members of the Inorganic Division covers the field, from phosphorus and fluorine compounds to organoactinides, and includes transition metal organometallics, inorganic polymers and the study of reaction mechanisms. The inorganic chemistry program offers the graduate student the opportunity to pursue advanced research in all the modem aspects of the area.
With a special interest in phosphorus chemistry, Ron Cavell, FCIC, explores the synthesis of phosphorus-nitrogen, phosphorus-fluorine and phosphorus-sulphur compounds. New ligand types are formed and these ligands are co-ordinated or bound to metal centres. Some new phosphorus-nitrogen ligands with bifunctional hard-soft character have formed complexes which have proven to be effective homogeneous catalysts. Cavell, also is interested in heterogeneous catalysis and uses electron (ESCA and Auger) and ion (SIMS) spectroscopies to study surface reactions. He is also studying variable energy photoelectron spectroscopy of gaseous, highly oxidized phosphorus and sulphur compounds using the Aladdin Synchrotron source in Madison, WI.
Marty Cowie, MCIC, is investigating the chemistry of bimetallic organometallic systems. in such compounds, co-operation between the metal centres can allow the system to bind small molecules in unique ways with the prospect of leading to novel synthetic and catalytic applications. Cowie is also the resident expert on X-ray crystallography, and this technique is a basic tool for the work of his research group.
Since the groundbreaking discovery of carbon-hydrogen bond activation in his group in 1982, Bill Graham, FCIC, has concentrated on exploring this type of reaction. New and more efficient transition metal complexes for C-H activation have been discovered, including a series of tris(pyrazolyl) borate complexes. Work continues on the mechanisms and energetics of these reactions and the isolation of the C-H activation products. Among other awards, Graham received the E.W.R Steacie Award in Chemistry in 1991.
The synthesis and characterization of organometallic polymers are a primary interest of Allen Hunter, MCIC. Polymeric systems with a conjugated organic bridge between two metal centres have the potential of possessing unusual and useful electronic and optical properties, These features are investigated by cyclic voltammetry, bulk conductivity and X-ray structure determination.
Does a reaction go fast or slow, and why, are questions that occupy the efforts of Bob Jordan's, FCIC, research group. This work includes studies on the relationship between the rate of solvent exchange on a metal ion complex, using pulsed NMR, and the rate of ligand substitution, using stopped-flow methods. it was shown that the complexation of amino acids will be controlled by the rate of chelate ring closure for many systems. Recent work has concentrated on the substitution and redox reactions of aqueous iron(III) with organic ligands such as ascorbic acid, aromatic diols, and hydroxyquinoline derivatives. The formation, decomposition and substitution reactions of the unusual organometallic (alkyl)penta(aqua)chromium(III) complexes also are being investigated.
With a special interest in the lower part of the Periodic Table, Joe Takats', FCIC, research group is exploring the chemistry of M[(CO)].sub.4](alkyne) (M=Ru, Os) compounds, and that of (polypyrazolyl) borate complexes of the f-elements. Unusual for 18-electron complexes, the alkyne-carbonyl derivatives react readily and, with proper guidance, form dimetallacyclic species. These are intriguing models for surface adsorption of unsaturated organic substrates and heterogeneous catalysis. The goal of the research with (polypyrazolyl) borate ligands is to prepare complexes of the f-elements with low co-ordination environments and unusual geometries, thereby inducing unique and hitherto unobserved reaction channels for the complexes.
Research in organic chemistry at Alberta encompasses a variety of fields and the Organic Division has a number of internationally acclaimed members. University professor Bill Ayer's, FCIC, work in natural product isolation began with the lycopodium alkaloids and later included insect pheromones. His research is at present centered on the study of the metabolites of fungi which cause or cure plant diseases. This involves growing the fungi in liquid culture, carrying out bioassay-directed separations and then identifying the active metabolites by chemical and spectrometric methods. The biosynthesis of these metabolites is frequently studied by [sup.13] C NMR methods and the laboratory synthesis is often attempted.
The group is currently studying fungi associated with "black galls" of aspen, since aspen with black galls are impervious to fungal stain and rot. Phytoalexins elicited in plants by fungal infections are also being investigated as are the constituents of some medicinally useful plants. Ayer has received the Merck and Labatt awards and has served as president of the CSC.
Stan Brown's, FCIC, research is mainly in the area of the physical organic chemistry of biologically relevant processes and electrophilic addition mechanisms. He has invested considerable effort in determining the detailed mechanism of hydrolysis of amides in both acid and base. Building on that work, he is currently interested in designing biomimetic catalysts that will facilitate the hydrolysis of amides under mild conditions. His work in the area of electrophilic halogenation of olefins has centered mainly on the isolation and structural characterization of stable bromonium ions, and the determination of the factors that influence their partitioning in solution. He received the 1991 Syntex Award in Medicinal Chemistry.
Derrick Clive's, MCIC, field of interest is synthetic organic chemistry and several types of projects within this area are being studied: * The synthesis of very complex natural products that have important biological or medicinal properties; * The development of new strategies and methodologies for making complex structures; * The synthesis and testing of channel-producing agents that can transport small molecules through biological membranes.
Relevant to treating heart disease
The synthetic targets being examined are relevant to the treatment of heart disease (e.g. Mevinolin) or show anti-tumor properties (Fredericamycin A), or have potential to control blood pressure. The methodology program is based mainly on radical cyclization, and the bio-organic research involves the design of compounds that mimic the polyene antibiotic Amphotericin B.
Bob Crawford, FCIC, was a pioneer in the study of diradicals derived from thermolysis and photolysis of cyclic azo compounds. Deuterium labelling has allowed the stereochemistry of the ring closure to cycloalkanes to be determined. Recently, laboratory simulation of the racemization of peptide chiral centres has begun to determine the mechanism of the process which is used in dating protein materials in fossils. It has been found that asymmetric induction and hydrolysis play a role that has not been taken into account in the dating of fossils by this method.
Ole Hindsgaul, FCIC, describes his research as "the application of synthetic carbohydrate chemistry to problems in cell biology". Current research projects centre on the design and synthesis of glycosyltransferase-inhibitors and the use of glycosyltransferases in a combined chemical-enzymatic approach to oligosaccharide synthesis. New methodology for the stereospecific synthesis of glycosides is also being developed. He received the 1990 Merck Frosst Centre for Therapeutic Research Lecture Award.
Products resulting from the work of Hindsgaul, in association with R.U. Lemieux, have led to the effective typing of human blood, thus eliminating the problems of blood donor mismatches, and are used in the treatment of leukemia and hemophilia. Compounds to prevent organ rejections have been identified and developed commercially.
Karl Kopecky's, FCIC, research includes the synthesis of novel molecules and the study of the mechanisms of their reactions. Currently, the emphasis is on the study of remote steric effects on radical reactions, new types of polymerization reactions, and ozonolysis of electron-rich alkenes. In the last reaction, oxiranes, dioxetanes and dioxiranes are sometimes formed.
Even though he is formally retired, world-renowned university professor Ray Lemieux, FRS, FCIC, continues to be very active in carbohydrate research. He is presently concerned with molecular recognition, with particular reference to the specific binding of oligosaccharides by protein receptor sites and the relevance of this binding to the immunogenicity of carbohydrate antigenic determinants. A main occupation is the synthesis of oligosaccharides and congeners thereof to serve in binding studies involving lectins, antibodies and enzymes which are aimed at an assessment of the topographical features that are recognized. Supercomputer-assisted Monte Carlo simulations of the role of water are carried out to help rationalize the thermodynamic parameters. CHO * x[H.sub.2]O + Protein * y[H.sub.2]O (CHO * Protein) * z[H.sub.2]O + n[H.sub.2]O and x + y = n + z
Lemieux has been recognized as a world leader in his field and has received numerous awards and honors including the first canada Gold Medal in Science and Engineering, more than a dozen honorary degrees and the King Faisal International Prize in Science. This June he will receive an Honorary Fellowship in The Chemical Institute of Canada in recognition of special service to The Institute, service which has included serving as its president.
Hsing-Jang Liu's, FCIC, work involves research in two major areas of organic synthesis: development of new synthetic methods and the total synthesis of natural products which have structural and/or biological significance.
In the area of methodology, the emphasis is on photocycloaddition-fragmentation reactions, new applications of the Diels-Alder reaction, development of synthetically useful phosphorus-containing reagents, chemical reactivity of Ce(III) enolates, and synthetic application of thiol esters. The primary aim is to develop efficient methods for achieving chemical transformations under mild conditions with high selectivity.
As with Lemieux and Hindsgaul, the theme of molecular recognition plays a large role in Bill Lown's work. His main areas of research interest are in synthetic and mechanistic studies in the biological chemistry of nucleic acids related to the mode of action of anti-cancer and anti-viral agents. A major goal is to decipher the polypeptide-DNA molecular recognition code so that it will be possible to design and synthesize DNA sequence selective binding agents for therapeutic use and for applications in molecular biology.
Designing agents to treat cancer, AIDS
Synthetic studies, guided by analysis of the components of molecular recognition between ligands and nucleic acid receptors, are directed toward the design of agents capable of genetic targeting. Such agents will be useful in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and AIDS, Lown is the recipient of the 1992 Paul Erlich prize.
Dennis Tanner's, MCIC, research involves the study of the reactions of organometallics, synthetic methods in radical reactions, oxidation-reduction by electron transfer, polar effects and selectivity in free radical reactions, reversibility in hydrogen transfer reactions, both radical and ionic molecular rearrangements, and biologically related reactions which use electron transfer-atom transfer sequences.
The solution phase addition reactions of hydrogen atoms with unsaturated organic compounds and the subsequent reactions of the radical formed is another facet of the reactions of free radicals in solution. Using chemical probes for both qualitative and quantitative studies of reaction pathways is now being investigated.
How does nature build molecules?
The work of John Vederas, FCIC, aims to understand the mechanisms and the sequence of steps by which nature assembles biological molecules. The research is multi-disciplinary and employs chemical synthesis, spectroscopic methods (especially NMR), isotopic labelling techniques, enzyme isolation, and microbiology. one area of interest is the design of non-[Beta]-lactam antibiotics that block bacterial peptidoglycan formation. These compounds should be effective against pathogenic organisms resistant to conventional therapy.
Another project deals with the mechanism and inhibition of pituitary enzymes involved in production of peptide hormones having a primary amide at the carboxyl terminus. This research group also has a keen interest in the biosyntheses of polyketide and polypeptide antibiotics (secondary metabolites). Vederas received the 1991 John Labatt Limited Award.
Graduate students in organic chemistry have the opportunity to pursue advanced research in synthetic bio-organic and physical organic chemistry, and to use the best techniques for the detection and identification of compounds. It is also possible to experience interdisciplinary research, with such departments as biochemistry, pharmacy and pharmacology.
In the Physical-Theoretical Division there are eight experimental physical chemists, four theoreticians and one scientist working in computer-assisted instruction. As well, three Professors Emeriti are still very active in research.
John Bertie, FCIC, is interested in the interpretation of vibrational specta and in applying vibrational spectroscopy to hydrogen-bonded gases, liquids and solids. Information is thus obtained about inter- and intra-molecular forces. Current work emphasizes the measurement and analysis of the absolute intensities of absorption of infrared radiation of pure liquids and binary mixtures, partly for the molecular information they contain and partly to develop secondary intensity standards for IUPAC.
Bruce Clarke studies the theory of chemical systems which produce oscillations and spatial patterns. He has developed a mathematical theory of how instabilities arise in complex chemical mechanisms. This theory is implemented as an interactive graphics computer program package where, initially, the user sketches a reaction network and the software derives analytical expressions and displays them graphically. This allows the user to determine rate constants and confirm mechanistic details from experimental dynamical phase diagrams. Long-time associate chair and Professor Emeritus Stu Davis, FCIC, continues to update his Chemistry Data Sheet, first copyrighted with W.E. Harris in 1960.
Brian Dunford, FCIC, a biophysical chemist with a special interest in heme-containing enzymes, is studying enzyme mechanisms. The enzymes include peroxidases, catalases, cytochrome P-450 and prostaglandin H synthase. The experimental work involves transient state, relaxation, pre-steady state, steady state and oscillatory kinetics.
Serafin Fraga is carrying out theoretical studies on atomic structure in order to completely determine the energy levels of many-electron atoms. As well, he has written a software package for the study of protein structures. This is being used for the modelling and analysis of peptidic structures, protein association, interaction of proteins with non-peptidic molecules, and solvation studies of proteins.
Gordon Freeman, FCIC, measures the chemical and physical properties of electrons in fluids. Through time-resolved optical spectroscopy, he determines the solvation dynamics of electrons in liquids, and the effect of energy state on reactivity. In addition, he is working on the kinetics of non-homogeneous processes, a cross-disciplinary subject that links biology, chemistry, geography, geology and physics.
Dedicated to quality
During his 17-year tenure as chair of the department, Professor Emeritus Harry Gunning, FCIC, was influential in building a department dedicated to high-quality research. His influence has been an enduring one. He later became president of the University of Alberta and served as president of The Chemical Institute of Canada. This June, he will be awarded an Honorary Membership in the Canadian Society for Chemistry.
Professor Emeritus Loren Hepler's, FCIC, research in thermodynamics and colloid chemistry is directed towards problems related to oil (tar) sands. Much of his experimental research involves calorimetric measurements, e.g., the measurement of the rate of heat production associated with oxidation of bitumen and heavy oils.
The research of Professor Emeritus Sigeru Huzinaga, MCIC, is in the field of computational chemistry. His current work involves the preparation of high-quality basis sets for a large number of atoms, especially heavy elements, and the development of theoretical methods to produce accurate structural information for molecules containing these heavy elements.
Al Kalantar studies errors in parameters extracted from data. These studies have uncovered several striking examples of large inefficiencies resulting from ignoring weighting or from using some linearizing transformations.
Paul Kebarle, FCIC, has research interests in both physical and analytical chemistry. He studies the kinetics, mechanisms and energetics of ionic reactions in the gas phase as determined by mass spectrometry. His work on reactions of ions which are partially solvated allows a bridge to be formed between ionic behavior in the gas phase and in solution. His research in analytical mass spectrometry involves atmospheric pressure ionization techniques for the detection of trace compounds in air, and electrospray, for the detection of ions present in solution. Kebarle won the 1986 Chemical institute of Canada Medal.
Mark Keil's research in chemical dynamics is aimed towards understanding intermolecular energy transfer and elementary chemical reactions. The data are obtained using laser and molecular beam experimental techniques and shed light on molecular motions during single collisions between isolated atoms and molecules. An example of an experiment under study is the transfer of energy during the scattering of HF molecules by Ar atoms and [NH.sub.3] molecules.
Mariusz Klobukowski, MCIC, a theoretician, is interested in accurate studies of geometric structure, vibrational spectra and one-electron properties of molecules and their ions. Computations are performed on the Amdahl 5870, SUN SPARC station 370, Convex 210 and IBM-RS/6000. He is interested in the development and use of accurate Gaussian basis sets and proper correlating functions for the evaluation of the electron correlation energy in molecules and for studies of molecular properties.
George Kotovych, MCIC, is a biophysical chemist interested in the application of highfield nuclear magnetic resonance techniques towards the conformational analysis of a wide range of medicinally important molecules and peptides. The two dimensional experiments include the TOCSY and the NOESY and distances are obtained from the nuclear Overhauser effect. A major study involves the collagen monomer telopeptides which are located at each end of the collagen triple helix.
John Martin, MCIC, is the departmental expert in the field of computer-assisted instruction using microcomputers. In addition to writing a first-year chemistry curriculum, he is interested in devising methods of presenting descriptive inorganic chemistry.
The research of Ted McClung, MCIC, is directed toward the assessment of the potential chemical applications of two dimensional NMR experiments, and the design of new experiments to obtain diagnostic information on chemical systems. Of particular interest are computer simulation techniques which facilitate the analysis and understanding of multiple pulse FT NMR experiments, and the development of new experiments, such as edited C-H correlation measurements where directly-bonded correlations are suppressed. He is also interested in the application of a multi-site magnetization transfer method to the study of fluctional behavior in organometallic compounds. Professor Emeritus Otto Strausz, FCIC, has long-range research in the areas of photochemistry, chemical kinetics and mechanisms, chemical spectroscopy, petroleum chemistry and organic geochemistry. A current program involves the generation of a series of novel triplet carbenes and their quintet state triplet-triplet radical pairs in low temperature solids. in petroleum chemistry, the chemical composition, molecular structure and chemical reactivities of heavy petroleums are explored along with their organic geochemistry.
Walter Thorson's research in quantum mechanics is concerned with mechanics of systems with a few strongly interacting degrees of freedom. This includes studies of non-separable, non-harmonic vibrational dynamics, mainly in strongly hydrogen-bonded systems and related model problems, and of electronic excitation and transfer in ion/atom collisions at low/intermediate collision energies, with his recent interest being in electron detachment and negative ion
Physical-theoretical chemistry is one of the most diverse disciplines of chemistry and this diversity is reflected at Alberta.
One of the features of the department is its outstanding instrumental facilities. The mass spectrometry laboratory under Alan Hogg, MCIC, is the best equipped of its kind in Canada and has three high-resolution, two low-resolution and two triple-quad mass spectrometers as well as mass spectrometers for isotope ratio measurements, gaschromatography-mass spectrometry and fast atom bombardment mass spectrometry.
Tom Nakashima, MCIC, supervises the magnetic resonance laboratory which is equipped with state-of-the-art spectrometers capable of routine measurement of NMR parameters as well as more specialized techniques such as difference nuclear overhauser enhancements, two-dimensional scalar and dipolar correlated spectra, the INEPT, INADEQUATE and the normal and reverse C-H shift correlation experiments. There are five highfield NMR spectrometers at 200, 300, 360, 400 and 500 MHz.
The structure determination laboratory, under the supervision of an experienced crystallographer, provides single crystal X-ray crystallographic services and has direct access to CRYSTOR, the Cambridge crystallographic database of some 50,000 organic and organometallic published structures.
The spectral services laboratory is supervised by Bob Swindlehurst, MCIC, and includes FTIR spectrophotometers, a GC/FTIR system, a laser Raman spectrometer, an ICP emission spectrometer and optical rotary dispersion and circular dichroism instruments.
The department also maintains first-rate electronics, glass blowing and machine shops. The department looks forward to having the 75th Annual Canadian Chemical Conference and Exhibition in Edmonton this year. We hope that the participants enjoy the pristine atmosphere arid sunny climate of the city and will have time to visit with friends in the department. D.J. Harrison, R.B. Jordan, K.R. Kopecky, G. Kotovych, M.A. Armour, Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta.
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|Author:||Harrison, D.J.; Jordan, R.B.; Kopecky, K.R.; Kotovych, G.; Armour, M.A.|
|Publication:||Canadian Chemical News|
|Date:||May 1, 1992|
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