Jonas C. Peters Wins 2017 Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship

Jonas C. Peters, Bren Professor of Chemistry at Caltech, is the winner of the 2017 Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship. Inorganic Chemistry and the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry launched the award in 2013 to anually recognize a researcher who has demonstrated creativity and impact in leading research in inorganic chemistry.

“Jonas’s research program is both exceptionally productive and creative, and his work is widely respected across the entire inorganic chemistry community as being of the highest quality,” says William “Bill” Tolman, Editor-in-Chief of Inorganic Chemistry. “His work is also seen as pushing the boundaries of our understanding of structure, bonding, and catalytic activity of inorganic compounds, particularly ones of relevance to global C, N, and O cycles and energy applications.

“Jonas is also recognized for his training of many successful chemists in top academic institutions,” Bill says. “The committee’s selection of Jonas to receive the 2017 Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship Award was informed by the combined impact of his research accomplishments, service to the field, and training of students and postdoctoral associates.”

Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship Session at the 2017 ACS Fall National Meeting

As winner of the 2017 Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship, Jonas will receive a $3,000 honorarium and travel and hotel accommodations to attend and a present at a session in his honor at the 2017 ACS Fall National Meeting in Washington, D.C., in August. Inorganic Chemistry and the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry encourage you to attend the session and will provide more details on the date and time when they become available.

Jonas follows in the footsteps of four previous award winners:

  • 2016 – Dr. Serena DeBeer, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion
  • 2015 – Dr. Daniel Gamelin, University of Washington
  • 2014 – Dr. Jeffrey Long, University of California, Berkeley
  • 2013 – Dr. Christopher Cummins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

An Interview with Jonas C. Peters

I caught up with Jonas recently to learn more about his research and what excites him about inorganic chemistry. Here are the highlights of our conversation.

What do you love about inorganic chemistry; why did you choose to pursue this field of research?

Inorganic chemistry drives the most important chemical transformations on earth, such as the key bond-breaking and -making events of photosynthetic water splitting and biological nitrogen fixation. Understanding the chemical principles behind these types of multi-electron redox transformations, and using the full inorganic toolbox to translate this understanding into the discovery of new catalytic systems and possibly technologies, fascinates me at every level. The fundamental questions are so rich, the mechanistic puzzles are so challenging, and the potential for long-term pay-off is so vital!

What are you working on now?

My lab is heavily invested in a range of projects related to multi-electron reductive transformations. One such project concerns Fe-mediated nitrogen fixation catalysis. We hypothesized some years back that a single iron site, embedded within an appropriate ligand environment, might be able to mediate the key bond-making and -breaking transformations needed to catalyze N2-to-NH3 conversion. Ever since, we have been synthesizing fundamentally new iron complexes, probing their electronic structures and chemical reactivity patterns, and trying to make them “work” as catalysts. We’ve been fortunate to enjoy some success on the latter front in recent years, and we are now engaged in detailed mechanistic studies to try to unravel how these fascinating iron catalysts work, and trying to make them work better.

Other representative projects include studies of inorganic catalysts for hydrogen evolution and carbon dioxide fixation, and copper catalysts for photo induced cross-coupling reactions in organic synthesis. In all of these projects, we are particularly interested in synthesizing unusual new inorganic coordination complexes and using a range of spectroscopies to study them and their reactivities.

What do you anticipate working on in the future?

If I knew the answer to this question, I would be working on it already. I wouldn’t be able to resist!

I imagine I will always work on fundamental problems in inorganic chemistry, but I’d like to see whether we can translate some new discovery into a technology that could also be useful. Electrochemical catalysis is very promising in this context, particularly if we can for example discover efficient electrocatalysts for ammonia synthesis. This is a problem that I suspect will attract lots of attention in the coming years and I’d like my lab to play a role in addressing it.

I understand you’ve been active in training other successful chemists. What do you think has enabled you to do that? What is important in training the next generation of researchers?

I have been active in training lots of chemists, and they have been successful. They have moreover been successful in training me (and perhaps even more so). What has enabled me to do this is actually pretty simple. I have been fortunate enough to attract many truly outstanding students and postdocs to my lab over the years, and have tried to provide an environment where they can pursue topics of mutual interest. I also try to give them the space they need to pursue what interests them most, while admittedly nudging every once in a while when I think a course-correction should be considered. As I have gotten a bit older I have come to better realize that with really talented people it is super important to let them breathe!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’d just like to acknowledge the rich intellectual and technical contributions of all of my coworkers through the years, and the wonderful support of my mentors, colleagues, and family. I am pretty lucky, and I know it.

A Selection of Jonas C. Peters’s Articles in ACS Publications Journals

Get an idea of Jonas’s research in this selection of articles he has published in Inorganic Chemistry and other ACS Publications journals:

Spin-State Tuning at Pseudo-tetrahedral d6 Ions: Spin Crossover in [BP3]FeII–X Complexes

Inorg. Chem., 2016, 55 (8), pp 3894–3906
DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.6b00066

Evaluating Molecular Cobalt Complexes for the Conversion of N2 to NH3

Inorg. Chem., 2015, 54 (19), pp 9256–9262
DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.5b00645

Hydricity of an Fe–H Species and Catalytic CO2 Hydrogenation

Inorg. Chem., 2015, 54 (11), pp 5124–5135
DOI: 10.1021/ic502508p

Catalytic N2-to-NH3 Conversion by Fe at Lower Driving Force: A Proposed Role for Metallocene-Mediated PCET

ACS Cent. Sci., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.7b00014

Breaking the Correlation between Energy Costs and Kinetic Barriers in Hydrogen Evolution via a Cobalt Pyridine-Diimine-Dioxime Catalyst

ACS Catal., 2016, 6 (9), pp 6114–6123
DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.6b01387

A Synthetic Single-Site Fe Nitrogenase: High Turnover, Freeze-Quench 57Fe Mössbauer Data, and a Hydride Resting State

J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2016, 138 (16), pp 5341–5350
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.6b01706
Read all of Jonas Peters’s ACS Publications’s Articles.

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