Steven Diver Awarded NSF Young Investigator Award

Release Date: November 28, 2001

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Steven T. Diver, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry at the University at Buffalo, has received a Young Investigator Award of $510,000 from the National Science Foundation to synthesize stable carbenes, a type of molecule that has unique chemical properties and that can be used to catalyze chemical reactions.

The goal of the research is to design and synthesize carbenes that can be used to catalyze organic reactions. The emphasis of organic synthesis is to develop efficient and creative methods for developing molecules or compounds with unique biological activity. In many cases, the desired compounds are chiral, meaning that they exist in different forms that are mirror images of one another, and the catalysts that are used to create them must be chiral as well.

These unique, chiral carbenes are particularly interesting to chemists because they can be used to catalyze reactions that produce new chiral carbon centers, an important process in organic chemistry called asymmetric synthesis. They also are used to bind to transition metals, reactions that are critical in synthesizing complicated natural products that contain many other reactive groups.

"There is a deep-seated interest in what governs the reactivity of these complexes," said Diver. "We know far more about the metal complexes than we do about the stable carbenes themselves."

The NSF grant also allows Diver to proceed with plans to improve teaching in UB's sophomore organic chemistry laboratory by utilizing cooperative learning techniques. Diver is interested in adapting these techniques, such as the case-studies approach in the classroom advocated by Clyde Herreid, Ph.D., UB professor of biological sciences, to the laboratory to enrich the undergraduate laboratory experience.

Other research being pursued by Diver's group of 10 graduate and two undergraduate students includes total synthesis of potential anticancer compounds derived from natural products.

Diver lives in Clarence.

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