Professor Dr. Abby O’Connor
Greetings! If you are reading this you are probably interested in finding out more about me, so here it goes. My background and research interests lie is in a field that bridges traditional inorganic and organic chemistry called organometallics. Most applications in this area focus on the development of new transition metal complexes to catalyze reactions. My path in chemistry began a Lafayette College, where I received a BS degree in chemistry and conducted undergraduate research with Chip Nataro. I then received a PhD from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill working with Maurice Brookhart. My work involved studying the mechanism of diene polymerization using Nickel(II) catalysts. I went on to do postdoctoral research at the University of Washington in Seattle under the direction of Karen Goldberg. My research was directed towards dihydrogen activation and biomass conversion. I was also a member of the National Science Foundation Center for Chemical Innovation (CCI) Center for Enabling New Technology Through Catalysis (CENTC). I began teaching and my research program at TCNJ in the summer of 2010.
My research interests are focused on the development of more energy efficient means to produce our supply of fuels and chemicals. In order to do this, we need to find new homogenous transition metal complexes for different catalytic applications. In particular, my motivation is to find new ways to stabilize highly reactive intermediates that form during catalysis using hemilabile groups. A hemilabile ligand has the ability to coordinate weakly to a metal to aid in stabilization but can readily decoordinate from the metal to generate open sites for substrates to bind for catalysis. There are two major areas of interest in my group: 1). Development of less expensive homogenous hydrogenation catalysts using nickel complexes containing hemilabile phosphonate groups, 2). Development of new nickel and palladium catalysts containing hemilabile arene moieties for olefin oligomerization and polymerization. We have currently synthesized many new complexes in both project areas and will begin screening the reactivity of these molecules. Students in my group work in my different areas including synthesis and purification or organic compounds, synthesis and characterization of organometallics, and reactivity studies of the metal complexes. We also heavily rely on multi-nuclear NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography to characterize the complexes that we make.
When I am not working, teaching, or doing research I like to go to the gym, watch Carolina basketball, Giants football, and cook.