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Foundation grant of $320,000 to advance work of research chemist at SIUE

siuechemistsThe National Science Foundation has granted Southern Illinois University Edwardsville a three-year $320,000 award to advance the research of organic chemist Yun Lu, PhD, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry.

Lu is principal investigator of the project “Isotopically Different Tunneling Ready States in Hydride Transfer Reactions in Solution.” The co-principal investigators are SIUE’s Kevin Tucker, PhD, assistant professor specializing in analytical chemistry, and professor emeritus James Eilers, PhD, who specializes in computational chemistry.

“We are the first to test some important concepts in the contemporary enzymatic H-tunneling theories using solution reactions, and the work may change the views of chemists regarding how H moves between its donor and acceptor, and how enzymes “help” the chemical process,” Lu explained.

“Drs. Lu, Tucker and Eilers are conducting unique, cutting edge research on chemical reactions at the molecular level that places them among the prominent researchers in their field,” said Jerry Weinberg, PhD, associate provost for research and dean of the SIUE Graduate School. “This grant from the National Science Foundation is a testament to their work’s significant contribution to the understanding and application of H-transfer reactions in solution.”

Lu’s previous scholarship related to this work has been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the world’s preeminent journal in all of chemistry and interfacing areas of sciences.

“Those works have been well received by chemists and have laid a solid foundation for the proposed work in this NSF grant funded by the Chemical Structure, Dynamic and Mechanism B Program of the Chemistry Division,” Lu explained. “The grant funds a cutting-edge stopped-flow fast kinetic measurement instrument, which will promote our research productivity.”

“Results could provide information for scientists to develop catalysts for the H-transfer chemistry, to explore inhibitors for the related enzymatic reactions thus for drug design and help scientists understand reasons underlying the mysteriously fast enzymatic reactions.”

SIUE graduate and undergraduates have always been highly involved in Lu’s research endeavors. This latest grant-funded project will be no exception.

Six graduate students and two undergraduates have already been involved in work related to this proposal. During the three-year NSF funding period, three master’s level students and two undergraduates will be assigned to each sub-project each year.

“I want students to learn ways to conduct research and utilize new techniques,” Lu said. “I want to see them successfully apply what they have learned in the classroom to practical research. This research opportunity will further students’ understanding of organic synthesis, mechanistic analysis techniques, computational chemistry methods, quantum chemistry, the use of analytical instrumentation, as well as H-transfers in enzymes.”

“With these experiences, students are prepared to enter doctoral programs, become educators and/or problem-solvers for local chemical companies,” he added. “This project will continue to train students to excel in their future work and life.”

PHOTO: SIUE’s Dr. Yun Lu looks on as Peter Maness and Nasim Salimrafter work in the lab.

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