Monday, December 2, 2013

November 22, Dr. Michael Huggins, University of West Florida

            To be completely honest, quite a lot of what Dr. Huggins spoke about was beyond my grasp in terms of chemistry, but I’ll do my best to sum up.  First, a little background: apparently, Dr. Huggins went from associate professor to head of his school’s chemistry department in only a few short years.  He’s seems pretty young, and was a fairly engaging speaker, excited about his research and its progress.  His project deals with hydrogen bonding studies, specifically anion bonding and self-association of molecules.  This can be said to fall under the category of supramolecular chemistry—“chemistry beyond the molecule”—which is all about non-covalent bonds in molecular systems.  These interactions are important because they can be used to make things like “tweezers” or capsules that won’t react with but can be used to manipulate or enclose other substances on a molecular level.  He works with dipyrrinones, molecules derived from biliruben, a substance found in human bile and urine.  Biliruben is interesting due to the fact that it has polar functional groups, but a non-polar conformation.  Dipyrrinones undergo strong self-association, which can be problematic when a chemist wants to bond a dipyrrinone to another molecule, called the “guest”.  Structures with dipyrrinones have many potential applications, one of the most notable of which is the detection of chemical weapon such as sarin.  NMR spectroscopy is extremely important to the work he does, which I found interesting—after all, we learned the basics of NMR here in Organic Chem. I.  One final note: Dr. Huggins does not work alone; he works with graduate students, and they are more important than some people might think.  Indeed, Dr. Huggins mentions the wait for a grad student with “good hands” to come along to complete a particularly tricky reaction that is very sensitive when it comes to the placement of molecules.  Well, that’s about all I could successfully glean from the lecture; I hope it was informative!  The image below is from:

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