Enzymes containing transition metal ions in their active sites catalyze some of the most difficult chemical reactions in biology, including as the oxidation of water to dioxygen in photosynthesis, the reduction of dinitrogen to ammonia, and the stereospecific functionalization of unactivated carbon-hydrogen bonds. Remarkably, these reactions proceed under ambient conditions. The area of bioinorganic chemistry aims to (i) understand these processes in detail and (ii) use this understanding to enable design of new bio-inspired catalysts. The efforts are important to society, because they may enable, for example, the generation of renewable energy to power the planet and cheaper fertilizers for agriculture. The field of bioinorganic chemistry is diverse and includes a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, analytical chemistry, and physical chemistry. Many different experimental techniques (e.g. reaction kinetics, a wide variety of spectroscopies, X-ray crystallography, and mass spectrometry) and theoretical methods (e.g. electronic structure calculations and bioinformatics methods) are combined to study the reaction mechanisms of enzymes containing metals. For these reasons, research in this area is generally highly collaborative. This workshop will train students and postdoctoral scholars in the area of bioinorganic chemistry. The training of students, postdoctoral scholars and even faculty has a long tradition in this research field and is an important prerequisite for a productive collaborative environment.
With this award, the Chemistry of Life Processes Program in the Chemistry Division is funding a biennial training workshop, which is led by Prof. Carsten Krebs and colleagues at the Department of Chemistry at The Pennsylvania State University. The 2014 workshop provides training for approximately 150 participants and encompasses (i) 16 lectures by faculty experts in the field in their area of specialty and (ii) hands-on training in 21 different methods offered to small groups of up to 6 participants in 2-hour time-blocks (repeated up to 12 times) and taught by 70 student/postdoc/faculty experts in bioinorganic methods. This workshop will uniquely train the next generation of researchers in the field of bioinorganic chemistry. This year's workshop is even larger than the 2012 workshop, which was received with broad enthusiasm by the scientific field.