The Chemical Structure, Dynamics and Mechanisms Program in the Chemistry Division at the National Science Foundation supports Professor Steven Kass of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, for combined IR and MS investigations of new acids and base reactivity, H-bonding catalysts, and gas phase reactive intermediates. The goals of this work are to develop structure-reactivity relationships for a wide range of bioinspired catalytic acids and bases, and to understand the fundamental principles by which a new class of chiral acids and bases can be used for enantioselective reactions. These investigations will include the determination of ionized amino acids and peptide structures, non-bonding interactions, hydrogen-deuterium exchange sites, and the "mobile proton controversy." The research will have broad ranging implications from pharmaceutical development and the fabrication of nanomaterials, to a better understanding of enzyme catalyzed reactions.
Broader impacts of the research include interdisciplinary training opportunities for students, from experiment to theory and from organic synthesis to mass spectrometry. The research is intertwined with many practical aspects of science that could lead to huge societal benefits such as the preparation of new medicines and the development of noninvasive detection methods for human diseases. The PI is directly and intensely involved with the training of undergraduates through an REU program, and through a summer research program at the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute.
The chemistry in this proposal spanned a wide range and is an example of basic research intertwined with many practical aspects of science that could lead to huge societal benefits such as the preparation of new medicines and the development of non-invasive detection methods for human diseases. In particular, bio-inspired acids were prepared and their properties and reactivities were explored. New insights into hydrogen bonds were obtained, a new class of catalysts were developed, and molecular architecture was carried out to address questions relating to our environment and health. Nature's strategy of cooperative hydrogen bonds was exploited in this regard, and it is hoped that environmentally friendly chemical reagents, new drugs and chemical sensors (for detecting pollutants and diseases) will result. To expand the scope of mass spectrometry (a multi-billion dollar field and an essential analytical tool in chemistry and biochemistry), a new instrument in the PI's laboratory was developed which interfaces a mass spectrometer with a laser system. The resulting device in essence enables molecular photographs to be obtained using infrared light. Reactive intermediates (the key species in many chemical transformations including combustion processes) were investigated. An invited review article on the subject was prepared and our results, which are critical for the basic infrastructure and healthy development of the field have been incorporated into the NIST website (www.webbook.nist.gov) and chemical textbooks. Undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students as well as visitors from around the world carried out research spanning a wide range of activities spanning from experiment to theory and from organic synthesis to mass spectrometry. This served as an excellent platform for training young and older scientists alike. It also enabled the PI to mentor high school and summer students via classes and the NSF-REU and Lando summer research programs at the University of Minnesota. The results from these efforts were disseminated in the usual ways (publications and lectures at undergraduate and graduate institutions as well as at meetings and companies). In addition, our finding have been brought to the attention of a wider audience via journals such as C & E News, Science, Analytical Chemistry, Angewandte Chemie, and Chemistry in Australia.