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Basolo Medal Lecture

Sponsored & Arranged by Northwestern University

Friday, October 11, 2013
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Marcetta Y. Darensbourg

Marcetta Y. Darensbourg


Distinguished Professor of Chemistry,
Department of Chemistry,
Texas A & M University,
College Station, TX

Seminar: “Crossroads of Organometallic and Coordination Chemistry: Synthetic Analogues of the Hydrogenase Active Sites”

After-Dinner Talk: "Beyond Vitamin B-12:  The New (Old?) Bioorganometallic Chemistry"
“What’s that Molecule Doing in an Enzyme Active Site???”

Technical Lecture Location: Reception, Dinner, and After-Dinner Talk:

Northwestern University
Technological Institute
2145 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
Lecture room 3, 1st floor

Hilton Orrington/Evanston
Heritage Ballroom, 2nd Floor
1710 Orrington Ave
Evanston, IL 60201

Cost:  $35 for members of ACS and their guests, $37 for non-members, and $20 for students, retired, or unemployed. A $2 fee is added for credit card orders. Please scroll down to register. Please contact the Section Office if you have problems registering (847-391-9091,

4:30 - 5:30 PM · Basolo Medal Lecture at Northwestern Technological Institute
6:00 · 7:00 PM · Reception for Dr. Darensbourg at the Hilton Orrington
7:00 - 8:00 PM · Dinner will be at the Hilton Orrington
8:00 PM · General Meeting at the Hilton Orrington

Information about the Fred Basolo Award

Seminar: “Crossroads of Organometallic and Coordination Chemistry: Synthetic Analogues of the Hydrogenase Active Sites”

Abstract:     The enormous response of chemists to the exciting organoiron molecules found in the active sites of [NiFe]-, [FeFe]-, and [Fe]-hydrogenases has produced a new field in the area of bioorganometallic chemistry. Synthetic efforts directed towards structural and functional (with regards to 2 H+ + 2e- = H2) models of these active sites have been enriched by various spectroscopies and theoretical models. The lessons learned go beyond comparisons to the enzymes, and into fundamental new chemistries. Perhaps this is because despite the advances in synthesis and mechanistic insight that the H2ase-inspired, base-metal catalysts have provided in the past decade, a systematic development that draws on the expected necessary features to improve performance has not produced highly active and robust molecular assemblies.

Arguably the best molecular electrocatalyst for hydrogen processing that has resulted from the hydrogenase active site inspiration is a mononuclear nickel complex with a built-in pendant nitrogen base—but with no diatomic ligands or proximal metal, the DuBois catalyst. Other monometallic H2-evolving catalysts, with or without pendant bases, have also been reported. Nevertheless the ubiquity of bimetallic active sites in biology provides a compelling argument for investigation of features that inform on the contributions of individual metals to the overall catalytic processes. Are the metals in concert with shared molecular orbitals? Or do redox changes at one metal merely change the donor ability of the thiolate sulfurs that bridge the metals?

Such questions are addressed with a now “classic” diiron model and a new non-carbonyl complex with an obvious iron dithiolate as bidentate ligand to a second iron, a dinitrosyl iron moiety. Comparisons to the familiar [FeFe]- and [NiFe]-hydrogenase biomimetics based on iron carbonyls expand the possible base-metal electrocatalysts into the non-innocence of iron-nitrosyl chemistry.

After-Dinner Talk:  “Beyond Vitamin B-12:  The New (Old?) Bioorganometallic Chemistry”
"What's THAT Molecule Doing in an Enzyme Active Site???"

originsoflifeCredible arguments may be made that the iron-sulfur world approach to the origin of biomolecules might involve sulfide-iron-carbonyls as templates for condensation reactions.  That such fragments, bearing toxic cyanide and carbon monoxide as ligands, ultimately became sophisticated, perfected enzyme active sites in living organisms is a thesis difficult to prove, but intriguing to consider.   This short lecture will focus on the events that led the speaker, trained in organometallic chemistry, into the field of hydrogenase enzyme active site biomimetics.  The application of  the well-established tenets and principles of the coordination chemistry of metal carbonyls, reaction mechanisms, and the value of small molecule models of complex biomolecules connects to many seminal contributions of Professor Fred Basolo.

Biography:   Professor Marcetta Y. Darensbourg is a native of Kentucky, with a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Following academic posts at Vassar College and Tulane University, she joined the faculty at Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, in 1982. She holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Chemistry.

Trained as an organometallic chemist and with earlier research programs in low valent transition metal hydrides, the possibility of metal hydrides in nature, specifically as intermediates in hydrogenase metalloenzymes lured her into the new field of bioorganometallic chemistry. She has been a leader in the development of synthetic analogues of the diiron hydrogenase active site and the insight they bring to the catalytic mechanism of these natural fuel cell catalysts.

Map and Directions

Parking:   After 4:00 p.m. parking is available in the lot across from the Technological Institute at the corner of Noyes Street and Sheridan Road.  Parking is also available on the side streets just west of this lot; however, observe the posted signs.

Google map of Northwestern's Technological Institute:
Google map to Northwestern's Technologial Institute from the Noyes St. CTA El station:

Seminar location: Lecture room 3 is on the first floor of the Technological Institute and is most easily reached by entering through the main doors facing Sheridan Road. The lecture room is clearly marked and there will be signs at the entrance to guide you to the room.

Dinner Award Ceremony:  Map and directions   The hotel is about one mile south of the Institute. Take Sheridan Road south to Chicago Ave. Stay on Chicago Ave. to Davis Street  Turn right onto Davis St. and take the first right onto Orrington Ave. The hotel is on the left.  Note that the streets around the hotel are one-way. 
There will be valet parking available, and parking vouchers will be distributed at the dinner.
Walking route: From the Technological Institute to the Hilton Orrington (estimated 16 minutes):

Google map of the Hilton Orrington:
Google map to the Hilton Orrington from the Davis Street CTA and Metra station:


A reception and dinner will be at the Hilton Orrington.

Hors d’ Oeuvres (four pieces per person) Vegetable Spring Roll with Ponzu Dipping Sauce Crab Potsticker & Sesame Honey White Mushroom Stuffed with Goat Cheese Creamed Spinach Spanikopita, Beer, Wine and Soda Bar

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