Emily Tsui Receives NSF CAREER Award

Author: Rebecca Hicks

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Emily Tsui, Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, has been selected as a recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. This award is the NSF’s most prestigious award for junior faculty members and is given to recognize outstanding research and its integration with education.

Tsui was chosen for her proposal entitled “Formation and Redox Chemistry of Metal Polysulfanido Complexes for Sulfur Transfer Reactions.” Sulfur-sulfur bonds are contained in numerous natural and synthetic compounds, and they can serve important roles in processes from bioinorganic signaling to energy storage and catalysis. Due to the relative weakness of sulfur π-bonding, numerous forms of sulfur-sulfur bonds occur, with various configurations of linkages and significant bond flexibility. While this flexibility could lead to great potential in the use of these complexes as redox agents, it also complicates the control of the reactions as many different sulfur species may be present and/or participate in either the desired reaction or undesired side-reactions. Tsui’s work aims to characterize and control the participation of sulfur through the use of metal polysulfanido complexes – compounds with sulfur containing ligands bound to metal centers.  As part of the award, Tsui will also be developing modular activity kits focused on inorganic chemistry and energy-related concepts for use at area middle schools.

More broadly, Tsui’s research centers on the synthesis of molecules and materials using principles and techniques spanning bioinorganic, organometallic, and nanomaterials chemistry. Her work takes inspiration from biological enzymes and heterogeneous catalysts, which are capable of activating strong bonds with high activity and specificity, to create novel transition metal complexes and nanomaterials that are redox or electrochemically active.

Tsui joined the faculty at Notre Dame in 2017 after completing a Ruth L. Kirschstein NIH postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington. She received her Ph.D. in 2014 from the California Institute of Technology and a B.S. from MIT in 2008. She is also the recipient of the 2014 ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry Young Investigator Award and the 2014 Herbert Newby McCoy Award.