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Current efforts are aimed of developing chemically and photochemically active metal complexes whose weak C-H bonds have been replaced by strong C-F bonds.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.
- Ph.D., M.I.T.
- M.Phil., Columbia University
- M.S., Polytechnic Institute, Bucharest, Romania
- "Synthesis and X-ray structure of a fluorinated 1,1-dialkoxy-3-iminoisoindoline acetal, an elusive phthalocyanine precursor" Tetrahedron 74, 3697 (2018).
- "Synthesis and Photophysical and Photocatalytic Properties of a Highly Fluorinated and Durable Phthalocyanine–Peptide Bioconjugate for Potential Theranostic Applications" Inorganic Chemistry 56, 7210 (2017).
- "Singlet oxygen based electrosensing by molecular photosensitizers" Nature Communications 8, 16108 (2017).
- "Electron Paramagnetic Resonance and DFT Analysis of the Effects of Bulky Perfluoroalkyl Substituents on a Vanadyl Perfluoro Phthalocyanine". Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie 231, 887 (2017).
- "Mixed Alkyl-Perfluoroalkyl Silver Scorpionates: Synthesis, X-ray Structures and Stabilizing Substituent Effects" European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry 2016, 2648 (2016).
- "Group III Perfluoroalkyl Perfluoro Phthalocyanines" Journal of Porphyrins Phthalocyanines 20, 1401 (2016).
- "Switching of the Rate-limiting Step in the Electrochromic Reduction of Fluorinated Phthalocyanine Thin Films by Decreased Intermolecular Coupling" Electrochimica Acta 157, 232 (2015).
- "Chemically robust fluoroalkyl phthalocyanine-oligonucleotide bioconjugates and their GRP78 oncogene photocleavage activity" Chemical Communications 50, 6309 (2014).
This article received VIP status and was featured on the Journal front cover page
- "Fluoroalkyl phthalocyanines: Bioinspired catalytic materials" Journal of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines 22, 371 (2018).
This review was assigned VIP status and the Journal Cover
- "Photoreduction and light-induced triplet-state formation in a single-site fluoroalkylated zinc phthalocyanine" Dalton Transaction 43,14942 (2014).
This article received VIP status of the Journal's themed issue: "Inorganic chemistry for renewable energy conversion and storage" and was featured on the Journal front cover page
Recent, Issued Patents
Stabilized and reactive fluorinated phthalocyanine-functionalized solid-state support composites
Process for oxidation of amines in the synthesis of energetic materials
Functionalized fluorine containing phthalocyanine molecules
Self-cleaning protective coatings
Fluorophthalocyanine photodynamic water sterilization
Thin film applications of perfluoroisopropyl-substituted perfluorophthalocyanines
Recent, Major Grants
- US Army (3 awards)
- National Science Foundation (1 standard 3 year award, 2 high-risk EAGER awards, 1 supplement)
- US Air Force (SBIR Phase 1, Phase 2 and 1 supplement)
Student grants and fellowship awards
- Internally reviewed, undergraduate students: Clare Boothe Luce (twice), NJ Space Consortium (thrice)
- Externally reviewed, undergraduate students: PSEG Scholarship for Advancing STEM Majors, Celgene's Sol J. Barer Scholarship for Life Sciences, Novartis Science Scholarships (twice), others, standards, also administered by the Independent College Fund of New Jersey. Student Leadership Award, American Chemical Society.
- Externally reviewed, graduate students: 2016 John J. LaGrosa Award of the New Jersey Water Environment Association