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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Chemistry Research Groups

  • The Desjardins Research Group
    The theoretical description of the rates of chemical reactions is given by the subject of chemical dynamics. As computers have gotten more powerful, chemists have been able to describe the time evolution of increasingly complicated chemical mechanisms. Still, the complexity of biochemical pathways is sufficient to make it difficult for a working biochemist to even write down the basic equations. We are working on using Maple software to generate the dynamic equations and simulate a pathway given only a basic schematic of the biochemical system. These schematics will look as much as possible like the mechanisms drawn in most biochemistry books. As an example, we will try to simulate the Malate–Aspartate shuttle, a fairly well known pathway that transfers an electron across the mitochondrial membrane.
  • The France Research Group
    The focus of our current research is on the development of ruthenium catalysts for the hydrogenation of esters and ketones to form alcohols. Traditional methods for these transformations require the use of stoichiometric reagents such as lithium aluminum hydride. These reactions generate large quantities of waste, making them environmentally and economically unattractive for industrial applications. In contrast, an effective catalyst for the addition of hydrogen gas to these compounds would only generate trace amounts of side products, making the reactions much more “green.” In addition to concerns over the development of more environmentally friendly reagents, the reduction of ketones has an added consideration in that this reaction involves the formation of a new chiral center. Our research also involves developing new chiral catalysts to control the stereochemistry of such a reaction. Stereochemistry is the study of stereoisomers -- compounds that have the same atomic connectivity but differ in their 3-dimensional orientation in space. Objects that have a non-superimposable mirror image (such as your hands) possess the property of chirality. The configuration of organic molecules has a profound impact on their behavior in chiral environments such as the human body; mirror imagemolecules are seen as different species and possess different chemical properties. For example, different mirror images of pharmaceutical companies can have very different effects in the body. In most cases, one stereoisomer is active while the other, at best, is just a spectator or, atworst, causes serious complications that compromise the efficacy of the drug.
  • The LaRiviere Research Group
    The LaRiviere group is interested in fundamental aspects of ribosome metabolism in eukaryotes. Specifically, we are investigating ribosome assembly and turnover in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. One focus of the lab is to elucidate the mechanistic details of non-functional ribosomal RNA decay (NRD), a newly discovered ribosome quality control pathway in yeast. NRD detects and degrades defective rRNAs after assembly into ribosomal subunits and mature ribosomes. A second focus of the lab is to study the molecular interactions involved in the association of the large and small ribosomal subunits during ribosome biogenesis and translation. We use a combination of biochemical and molecular tools to study these biologically important, yet contrasting processes of ribosome assembly and destruction.
  • The Tuchler Group
    The Tuchler group has developed a technique involving Cavity Ringdown Laser Spectroscopy to measure the equilibrium constant as a function of temperature. Another area of interest in the Tuchler group involves pedagogical applications of Computational methods in Chemistry, which include chemical modeling (using Hyperchem and Gaussian), mathematical modeling (using Mathcad, Maple, and Mathematica), and system dynamics modeling (using Vensim). Finally, our newest adventure involves exploring the world of Bayesian Statistics and its application to modeling kinetics of chemical systems. More on this topic later…..
  • The Uffelman Research Group
    The Uffelman group is developing a set of novel polyamide macrocyclic ligands in order to expand the fundamental chemistry and Green Chemistry applications of iron-catalyzed oxidation reactions. Currently we are in our third iteration of ligand syntheses, which has been highly successful. This research program has, to date, involved forty-two different undergraduates, who gain experience in various NMR techniques, IR spectroscopy, inert atmosphere synthetic methods, and organic and inorganic synthesis. Sixteen of these students have done more than one summer of research in the group.