International Research Experiences for Students


Development of Transition Metal and Peptide Catalysts

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has been awarded a three-year grant from the International Research Experiences for Students Program of the National Science Foundation. It will support four different second- or third-year Ph.D. students each year to do research for four months in Sweden. The program will run from May to September each year from 2014 to 2016.

The theme of the students’ projects will be development of new catalysts in a broad sense with emphasis on enantioselective reactions. The program mentors in Sweden are Professor Jan-Erling Bäckvall at Stockholm University, Professor Pher Andersson at Stockholm University, and Dr.Per-Ola Norrby ofAstraZeneca, Sweden, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Notre Dame. They are world leaders in the development of computational methods for prediction of enantioselectivities of chiral transition metal catalysts, the development and characterization of new metal catalysts, the evaluation of catalyst performance, and the use of molecular biology methods to develop new peptide-based catalysts. The IRES student projects interface well with several research programs at Notre Dame and will be of interest to Ph.D. students having dissertation projects in organometallic, inorganic, synthetic organic, analytical, computational, physical, theoretical chemistry as well as biochemistry, materials science, and molecular biology.

The proposed program provides a blend of computational studies coupled with experimental work in chemistry and the tools of molecular biology to develop new transition metal or peptide catalysts. The participating students can choose to work on a single aspect or a combination of aspects of these projects. Quantum mechanics calculations will be used in combination with molecular mechanics force fields to probe reaction mechanisms and to design new metal- based catalysts. Directed evolution will be employed as a molecular biology technique for developing peptide-based catalysts. A variety of analytical techniques will be used to characterize the catalysts. Immobilization of catalysts will also be studied with possible applications to flow catalytic systems.

The participating students will further their knowledge of advanced computational and/or experimental methods, present their research in an international setting, and write reports and manuscripts for publication. The students will also be exposed to the culture of another technologically advanced country. Upon returning to the Notre Dame, the students will be encouraged to implement their newly gained knowledge and techniques in their ongoing dissertation research projects. Together with their Notre Dame dissertation directors, the students will also be encouraged to maintain collaborations with the Swedish laboratories.

The program includes the following:

  • round trip airfare from South Bend or Chicago to Stockholm
  • domestic travel within Sweden
  • full stipend
  • living expense allowance in addition to stipend
  • costs of laboratory supplies
  • attendance at the annual Molecular Frontiers Symposium featuring Nobel Laureates
  • attendance at a summer chemistry conference in Sweden

 Applications are due October 20. Decisions on admission into the program will be in early November. The top finalists may be interviewed by the selection committee prior to the final decisions.

English is the standard language in the scientific community in Sweden, and most Swedish citizens are fluent in English. Knowledge of Swedish is not necessary, but training will be offered to participating students who wish to gain basic skills in the language.