Meet 5 New Members of the ACS Catalysis Editorial Advisory Board - ACS Axial
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Meet 5 New Members of the ACS Catalysis Editorial Advisory Board

ACS Catalysis rotates scientists on and off of its Editorial Advisory Board to ensure it continues to receive advice and feedback from a broad cross-section of the community. There are nine new appointments to the ACS Catalysis EAB in 2019, which hosts scientists from 17 countries and provides critical guidance for the editorial team.

Get to know five of ACS Catalysis’ newest EAB members.

Yasuhisa Asano, Toyama Prefectural University

How did you decide to enter the field of catalysis? What keeps you going?

I was determined to enter the field of applied microbiology in the University because I heard from a chemistry teacher in high school that amino acid fermentation was established for the first time in the world in Japan (in the 60s). This was also the time that environmental pollution became evident in Japan. I was born near a huge chemical factory and saw their activity in the local community, the smells of chemicals and the pollution. As a boy, I dreamed of changing chemistry into a safer industry. Therefore, I studied organic chemistry and then applied microbiology at Kyoto University.

It was necessary to study enzymes to explain the phenomena of microbiology. I believed that chemistry would equal chemical industrialization, based on my experiences from childhood. In university, the big wave of bioscience then overwhelmed us. I discovered and named “nitrile hydratase” and characterized and applied for the acrylamide production for the first time at Kyoto University. The enzyme and the microorganism I isolated are now used as one of the most important industrial biocatalysts in the world chemical industry (over 700,000 tons/year).

What are the major challenges still facing this field?

In enzyme chemistry, the numbers of industrial applications are not yet very high. In spite of the huge efforts in enzyme discovery, enzyme purification and characterization, and gene expression in hosts with natural enzymes, their importance is not well understood, and they are categorized as low impact studies. Such studies, which often cannot be integrated, should be more focused on enzyme chemistry. The science of enzymes will be shifted from just describing the activity, to a science with much more of a structural point of view. This will be developed with computer simulation and quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics calculations of the active site of the enzymes to explain the classic activities of the enzymes.

What advice do you have for newer researchers in the catalysis field?

Increase interests and insights in biology when new reactions are sought and do not just treat them as a protein catalyst. When studying at a protein level, have an interest in their structures: the primary, secondary, and tertiary structures. X-ray structural determination should be commonly used like nuclear magnetic resonance imaging in the lab.

Juventino J. García, National Autonomous University of Mexico

How did you decide to enter the field of catalysis? What keeps you going?

I was amazed by the new reactivity and transformations that a metal can make, forming inorganic substrates and then recycling the metal or the corresponding metal complex. That curiosity keeps me going to discover new and useful transformations and activations.

What are the major challenges still facing this field?

We need to face and solve global pollution (air, water, soil) and energy challenges efficiently and sustainably.

What’s next in your research?

Activation and transformation of pollutant gases and the use of biomass to generate value-added products.

Describe the most rewarding moment in your career as a scientist or engineer.

Being able to generate basic knowledge and then apply it into a practical industrial process.

What advice do you have for newer researchers in the catalysis field?

Innovate in new catalytic transformations using cheap metals and simple raw materials.

Stefan Mecking, University of Konstanz

How did you decide to enter the field of catalysis? What keeps you going?

When choosing my Ph.D. subject, I was hovering between preparative main group chemistry and homogeneous catalysis. I chose the latter due to its scientific versatility (and due to the good atmosphere in Willi Keim’s group) and never regretted it. Clearly, my wonderfully enthusiastic students and postdocs, with their different individual ways of approaching a scientific problem, keep me going.

What are the major challenges still facing this field?

Manifold. For example, the activation of olefins in the presence of polar groups leaves a lot of room for improvement. This is one challenge out of many, chosen from a personal perspective, but already this one example has far-reaching implications for future feedstocks or yet unachieved materials.

In general, putting the most fundamental advances in practice is a challenge. The catalysis community is good at this, but it is certainly never trivial.

Describe the most rewarding moment in your career as a scientist or engineer.

There have been quite a few; I could not single out one. Every Ph.D. defense is a very rewarding moment, for example. On a different note, seeing chemistry I was involved in going into large-scale applications is very rewarding.

What advice do you have for newer researchers in the catalysis field?

Do not let all obstacles, and bureaucracy in particular, take away the satisfaction and fun of science. Seek trusted advice, and then do your own thing.

Eranda Nikolla, Wayne State University

How did you decide to enter the field of catalysis? What keeps you going?

I entered the field of catalysis as a graduate student because I saw it as an enabling tool to change the energy landscape. The same idea keeps me going.  I think catalysis plays a key role in technologically relevant energy and chemical conversion processes, and proper catalyst design is imperative for improving their efficiency.

What is next in your research?

We are fascinated with engineering non-traditional catalytic systems to achieve high selectivity, activity, and stability. For example, we are focusing on engineering the complex surfaces of non-stoichiometric mixed metal oxides for various electrocatalytic processes and controlled design of inverted catalytic systems to achieve enhanced metal/metal oxide interfaces.

Describe the most rewarding moment in your career as a scientist or engineer.

The most rewarding aspect of my career has been training the next generation of catalysis scientists.  It is extremely rewarding to see my students evolve into independent researchers and grow their desire for the catalysis field.

What advice do you have for newer researchers in the catalysis field?

My advice for new researchers is to dig deep and find a niche that they are excited about. Catalysis is an old but still evolving field of science with great potential for affecting the energy and chemical landscape. Solid fundamental and applied scientific contributions will always have a significant impact on the field.

Nicholas Turner, The University of Manchester

How did you decide to enter the field of catalysis? What keeps you going?

I have always been interested in enzyme catalysis as a fundamental discipline and particularly in the development of engineered biocatalysis for applications in organic synthesis.

What are the major challenges still facing this field?

Designing new enzyme activities from protein sequences and optimizing them using machine-learning algorithms.

What is next in your research?

‘Total biocatalytic synthesis’ – i.e., developing new synthetic routes in which every step is catalyzed by an enzyme.

Describe the most rewarding moment in your career as a scientist or engineer.

Carrying out our first directed evolution experiments on monoamine oxidase N.

What advice do you have for newer researchers in the catalysis field?

Pick challenging problems and stick with them if you believe they are important.

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