Professor Michael Neidig
Professor of Chemistry
Research in the Neidig group spans synthetic and mechanistic organometallic chemistry, catalysis and physical-inorganic chemistry. One major area of interest focuses on elucidating active catalyst structure and mechanism in Earth-abundant metal catalysed transformations for organic synthesis to foster and facilitate sustainable catalyst and methodology development. Additional areas of interest include synthetic, spectroscopic and reactivity studies in molecular f-element chemistry as well as spectroscopic and electronic structure studies in support of broader research efforts across a range of inorganic, bioinorganic and materials chemistry systems. Some examples of specific areas of research interest are given below.
Iron-Catalysed Transformations for Sustainable Catalysis in Organic Synthesis and Beyond
A major research focus of the Neidig group is the development of fundamental knowledge of active catalyst structure and mechanism in earth abundant metal catalysis in order to foster and facilitate new catalyst and methodology development. Of particular interest are iron-catalysed transformations which offer tremendous potential for sustainable, low-cost methodologies for the selective formation of C-C, C-N and other carbon-heteroatom bonds. Unfortunately, a detailed understanding of in situ speciation and mechanism in such iron-catalysed transformations has remained largely elusive, reflecting both the broad range of plausible reaction mechanisms for paramagnetic iron complexes in catalysis (including both one and two electron pathways) and the experimental challenges associated with characterizing paramagnetic iron complexes. These challenges have historically presented a barrier to understanding the basic science that governs iron catalysed processes in organic chemistry, generally precluding the rational, mechanistic driven catalyst development that has proven widely successful in palladium chemistry. To address this significant limitation, our group has pioneered a distinct technical approach for studies of open-shell iron catalysts in organic transformations, utilizing a combination of inert atmosphere synthesis, advanced inorganic spectroscopic methods (e.g. Mössbauer spectroscopy, EPR, etc.) and DFT methods in order to obtain detailed information on the electronic structure of iron catalysts involved in organic transformations, including molecular-level insight into in situ generated and transient iron species. In parallel, we utilize this insight for new ligand and reaction development in iron catalysis. Example reactions of interest include iron-catalysed cross-couplings, C-H activation/functionalisations and olefin functionalisations, amongst others.
Spectroscopic and Synthetic Studies to Define Electronic Structure, Bonding and Reactivity in Molecular f-Element Chemistry
Our research efforts in molecular f-element chemistry are motivated by the fact that detailed insight into electronic structure and bonding in heavy element chemistry remains poorly developed compared to d-block systems, despite the critical role of f-element compounds in environmental, non-proliferation and energy issues. Several challenges contribute to the knowledge gap that exists for the f-block elements relative to their d-block counterparts. These include the potential participation of both d- and f-orbitals in bonding, which complicates electronic structures, large spin-orbit coupling effects, as well as the prevalence of paramagnetism in these systems. Of particular interest are studies involving low temperature synthetic methods combined with freeze-trapped EPR and MCD spectroscopies to investigate transient and reactive lanthanide and actinide complexes.
Electronic Structure and Spectroscopy in Inorganic, Bioinorganic and Materials Chemistry
Our research group has extensive spectroscopic capabilities and expertise, especially pertaining to paramagnetic transition metal systems, that can play a central role in solving critical challenges beyond our core research in homogeneous iron catalysis and f-element chemistry. As a result, our group is involved in a wide array of collaborative studies of transition metal containing systems including iron binding protein metalloproteins, base metal complexes containing potentially redox non-innocent ligand systems, iron-based heterogeneous catalysts and a wide variety of earth abundant catalytic systems for organic synthesis.
Originally from a dairy farming community in rural Pennsylvania, Michael received his BA in chemistry from Colgate University in 1999. Following studies at the University of Cambridge as a Churchill Scholar leading to an MPhil degree in chemistry, he moved to Stanford University where he received his PhD in chemistry in 2007 in the group of Professor Edward Solomon. After brief stops at Dow Chemical as a Senior Research Chemist and Los Alamos National Lab as a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Michael joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of Rochester as an Assistant Professor in 2011 with subsequent promotion to Associate Professor in 2017, Professor in 2020 and the Marshall D. Gates, Jr. Professor of Chemistry in 2021. He moved to the University of Oxford as Professor of Chemistry in 2022 and Tutorial Fellow in Inorganic Chemistry at Magdalen College. His work has been recognized through several awards including a Sloan Research Fellowship (2015), National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2015) and a DOE Early Career Award (2016).