Professor Christopher C. Cummins, Advisor
I plan to pursue an undergraduate research project this summer working in the chemistry
department for Professor Christopher Cummins. The Cummins group works primarily in the
field of pure inorganic chemistry, focusing on the synthesis and characterization of novel
organometallic coordination compounds.
The majority of my research this summer will be devoted to inorganic synthesis.
Working directly under the supervision of Professor Cummins and graduate student Christopher
Clough, I will first learn the basic procedures of inorganic synthesis through the preparation of
several amide, aryl, and enolate ligands commonly used in the Cummins group. After becoming
familiar with these syntheses, I will apply them to the preparation of several known tantalum and
molybdenum complexes previously studied by former undergraduate group member Han Sen
Soo. Finally, I will attempt to synthesize and study new coordination complexes incorporating
the ligands prepared by Soo.
The ligands used in the Cummins group have many interesting applications to the field of
inorganic chemistry. In particular, the enolates proposed by Soo seem to function well as
ancillary ligands, stabilizing some complexes of early transition metals that are usually difficult
to isolate and study. While Soo primarily explored the properties of tantalum (V) complexes, I
hope to reduce these compounds and form tantalum (III) complexes, which have historically
been more difficult to isolate and study due to their apparent instability.
The ligands I will be studying also have many applications to related fields such as
organic synthesis. Soo also proposed and synthesized a macrocyclic ligand incorporating both
ether and alkyne elements. This ligand possesses the unique property of bonding to both “hard”
and “soft” acids and bases, which are commonly somewhat difficult to react together. Soo also
attempted, unsuccessfully, to insert a copper atom into the center pocket of this ligand. I hope to
also pursue the successful completion of this reaction.
Since I have had little experience in synthesis prior to this project, I committed to it
partially because of my desire as a Course V major to gain laboratory experience in my freshman
year. However, I have since discovered that one of the most exciting aspects of this research
opportunity is that in the process of learning methods of inorganic synthesis, I will actually be
preparing considerable quantities of ligands and complexes that I will soon use in my own
research, thus simultaneously completing my training and the weeks of preparatory time
sometimes necessary before an research can be conducted.
As an aspiring physical or inorganic chemist, I am also eager to explore the field of pure,
rather than applied, chemistry. Often, in the study a pure science such as chemistry or
mathematics where new information is verified by theoretical rather than empirical means, it is
difficult to imagine the nature of research and experimentation. The research I will be
performing this summer seems to cover much of the information presented in classes such as
5.03, 5.13, and 5.60 that I plan to take in the next year. My work should thus provide me with
the opportunity to preview and gain an intuitive grasp of many of the reactions and concepts that
I will inevitably learn as a chemistry major. Ultimately, from my work in the Cummins group
this summer, I hope to gain experience and insight into both the nature of and commitment
required for a research position in the field of chemistry.