Project Report

With funding from the NSF EAPSI program, I spent the summer of 2011 carrying out research in the field organometallic chemistry at the University of Tokyo, where I worked under the guidance of Professor Kyoko Nozaki, a leader in the field of organometallics and polymer chemistry. My proposed research project was to apply synthetic methodology that I have developed during my Ph.D. work in the laboratory of Professor Jin-Quan Yu at The Scripps Research Institute to streamline the synthesize of poly(p-phenylene vinylene) (PPV) derivatives, an important class of conducting polymers with electroluminescent properties. Upon my arrival in the Nozaki lab, I began my work by preparing a key test substrate in three steps using using routine chemistry. With this compound in hand, I tested the key C–H activation polymerization reaction. However, after several trials, the results were not encouraging. Because time was limited, at this stage, we made a strategic decision to shift the focus of my work to an ongoing project in the Nozaki lab concerning carbon dioxide hydrogenation as a means of synthesizing formic acid, a bulk chemical that is widely used as a food preservative and leather tanner. Several years ago, the Nozaki lab discovered an iridium complex that is the most efficient catalyst reported to date for this reaction, and my efforts centered on developing the next generation of catalysts with improved reactivity. My work culminated in the synthesis of three novel complexes/ligands, and examination of the reactivity of these catalysts is ongoing. Through my laboratory work, I gained exposure to countless new experimental skills and problem-solving strategies that will serve me well in my future research career. Firstly, I learned a range of basic techniques in organic and organometallic chemistry, including how to work under stringent air- and moisture-free conditions. I became familiar with how to use and maintain a glove box and how to characterize transition metal–containing complexes. Furthermore, I saw firsthand the ways in which the Nozaki group’s different management worked in promoting an efficient and creative working environment. Admittedly, many aspects of my laboratory work in Japan were challenging. For example, with all of the computer menus in Japanese, it was difficult to find and order chemicals. Additionally, because the Nozaki group owned and maintained all of its own instruments (which is common in Japan and uncommon in the US), I found it difficult to operate these machines. These difficult circumstances forced me to rely heavily on my colleagues and to listen carefully and manage intercultural communications effectively, which was a beneficial educational experience in its own right. In addition to my research, I enjoyed the opportunity to immerse myself in Japanese culture found it to be invaluable experience for personal growth. With four fellow JSPS Summer Program students from the UK, I completed an overnight climb of Mt. Fuji, reaching the summit just in time for sunrise. My labmates and I attended a baseball game between the Tokyo Giants and the Yakult Swallows, and we also went as a group to an entertainment center with high-tech batting cages to celebrate 4th of July. Towards the end of my stay, we watched the Yokohma Marinos host a soccer match at Nissan Stadium, where the 2002 World Cup Final was held. During weekends, a Japanese friend and I went for long jobs around the Imperial Palace, which is a short trip from the University of Tokyo campus. I actively studied the Japanese language, and found myself reaching a functional level of communication by the end of the trip. Just as importantly, I found my time in Japan to be a tremendous opportunity for international scientific networking. Being based in Japan for an extended period of time allowed me to rekindle old professional relationships and build new ones. A Japanese friend of mine, whom I had met during his year as an exchange student at Scripps, helped me plan all of the logistical aspects of my arrival and assisted me in acculturating to the Nozaki lab. In mid-July, I traveled by Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto, where a former Japanese colleague of mine hosted me at Kyoto University. There, I delivered a lecture on my Ph.D. research and enjoyed the festivities of Gion Matsuri. Outside of the many close friends I made in the Nozaki lab, I also befriended many other JSPS Summer Program students from across North America and Europe. Since my time in Japan, I have stayed in touch with many of my former colleagues, and recently I helped arrange a visit to Scripps for an Assistant Professor in the Nozaki group. While in Japan, I also had the chance to present a poster at OMCOS 16, an organometallic research conference in Shanghai, China, which was my first chemistry conference abroad.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Carter Kimsey
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Engle Keary M
San Diego
United States
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