Dr. Helen Hoyt
Department of Chemistry
Preparation, Electronic Structure, and Reactivity Studies of Iron Complexes Supported by Conjugated Alpha-Diimine Ligands
Dr. Helen Hoyt is a synthetic chemist who focuses on catalyst development. Dr. Hoyt’s PRF supported research is directed towards developing iron based catalysts with conjugated α-diimine ligands for hydrosilylation reactions of petroleum-derived chemicals. She indicates that, in addition to developing catalysts, her research goals include “understanding the electronic structure of the catalysts, i.e. where the electrons are, and investigation of the role of ligands in redox activity for successful catalysis.” As Dr. Hoyt states, “transition-metal organometallic catalysts provide an interesting platform for study given the variety of selective transformations that they can accomplish by the subtle tuning of their coordination environments.” Her main interest is in developing methods for preparing industrial scale commodities in a cleaner, more sustainable and cost effective way using earth-abundant transition metals in catalysis.
Early in her PRF supported work, Dr. Hoyt and her students discovered an unexpected reversible ligand rearrangement which gave important mechanistic information. This mechanistic information is not only valuable insight into the catalyst being studied, but also provides information useful for designing other catalysts. Dr. Hoyt expects to use the information gained in the present research to expand the use of the catalyst to additional types of reactions and additional petroleum-derived substrates, and ultimately to develop other new catalysts based on other earth-abundant metals. To date, the research has yielded one paper accepted for publication in Polyhedron with another paper expected, which is a strong start for a professor beginning a career in an undergraduate institution.
Dr. Hoyt, who received her Ph.D. from Berkeley and did post-doctoral work with Paul Chirk at Cornell, is beginning her independent academic career at Knox College. Her PRF UNI Grant is her first research grant as an independent researcher. The grant enabled her in the first grant year alone to form a research group of five undergraduate students. The grant was a major factor in her ability to form a research group of this size. Dr. Hoyt believes that being able to form a research group of five not only allowed her to accomplish significant research achievements, but also to create a collegial atmosphere that encouraged her students to develop strong interest in chemistry as a career. Proof of this success in encouraging students to pursue chemistry is evidenced by the fact that 4 of the 5 students are currently pursuing Ph.D.s in chemistry, with the fifth applying to medical school. This certainly meets the PRF Trust document’s direction that the fund should be used to promote “advanced scientific education”.