Sergiu M Gorun, Ph.D.

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

My research group, affiliated with the Center for Functional Materials is interested in bioinorganic chemistry, broadly defined as bioinspired chemistry, a term I have coined. We create "artificial enzymes" by modeling their active sites using relatively small organic molecules, rationally modified to produce catalytic materials with enhanced chemical and thermal resistance, as well as broadened reactivity spectrum. The projects are highly interdisciplinary, requiring skills in organic synthesis, inorganic synthesis, advanced chromatographic, separations vibrational, electronic and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, single-crystal X-ray diffraction, electrochemistry and spectroelectrochemistry, magnetochemistry, homogeneous ad heterogeneous catalysis, photochemistry, biological and biomedical applications. Not all projects require all skills, but all students are exposed to a comprehensive package of techniques. The group collaborates with colleagues with expertise in computational chemistry, advanced characterization techniques such as magnetic circular dichroism, solid-state, surface science, biochemical and biological applications using cells, algae and bacteria.

Current efforts are aimed of developing chemically and photochemically active metal complexes whose weak C-H bonds have been replaced by strong C-F bonds. The new materials activate molecular oxygen from air either via electron transfer or energy transfer, in the latter case producing singlet oxygen and other reactive species, from air using the Sun, in the absence of any other chemicals, both in solution and in the solid-state. The organic ligands, phthalocyanines, are similar to hemes and chlorophylls, but they have been modified to contain C-F groups, and, more recently, basic (-NH2) and acidic (-COOH) substituents. These substituents allow the chemically and photoactive phthalocyanines to be anchored on solid-state supports, such as metal oxides, and to be bioconjugated with polypeptides, vectors specifically aimed at biological targets such cancerous cells.

Teams of students ranged historically from undergraduates and graduates to post-docs and senior visiting scientists. Everyone learned by doing and all are encouraged to write manuscripts for publications and grant applications. Current interactions with students and faculty from Belgium, Canada, Germany and the US universities, as well with scientists and engineers from US Federal research centers contribute to the advancement of projects while exposing the group to a broad science environment. The scientific advancements are also translated into technology and protected by patents financed by the US and European academia as well as by the Federal Government of the US.