Center for Green Chemistry

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Research Projects

Daniel Dowling

Research in the Dowling lab is at the interface of chemistry and biology.  We are interested in utilizing the structural technique of X-ray crystallography and enzymatic assays to elucidate the function and mechanism of different biological systems.  One field of particular interest for green chemistry is natural product biosynthesis. By increasing our understanding of how enzymes perform challenging chemical transformations at the molecular level, we aim to develop systems that can be further manipulated for benefits that include biocatalysis and natural product engineering.

Select Publications

Dowling, D.P. et al. Radical SAM enzyme QueE defines a new minimal core fold and metal-dependent mechanism. Nat. Chem. Biol. 10, 106–112 (2014).

Dowling, D.P., Croft, A.K. & Drennan, C.L. Radical use of Rossmann and TIM barrel architectures for controlling coenzyme B12 chemistry. Annu. Rev. Biophys. 41, 403–427 (2012).

Dowling, D.P., Vey, J.L., Croft, A.K. & Drennan, C.L. Structural diversity in the AdoMet radical enzyme superfamily. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1824, 1178–1195 (2012).

Jason Evans

Two problems associated with the arsenal of antibiotics commonly used to treat infections are the evolutionary development of resistance and persistence in our environment, which presents risks to aquatic ecosystems, as well as, to human health. The Evans laboratory is interested in developing a strategy for discovering a new greener class of antibiotics, based on tunichromes extracted and isolated from anthropods.


Michelle Foster

The Foster Group does Surface Chemistry and Experimental Physical Chemistry. We use optical spectroscopies, such as diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform spectroscopy (DRIFTS), and scanning probe microscopies, such as atomic force microscopy (AFM),  and combination techniques, such as a Raman microscope spectrometer, to study chemical reactions and processes happening at complex interfaces. Green Chemistry: Adsorption studies on metal oxide nanoparticles to help explain heterogeneous catalytic processes; Mechanistic studies on solid acid catalysts. Materials Science: Nanomechanical properties of novel core-shell nano/micro-spherical particles; Physical properties of novel liquid-metal systems. Alternative Energy Processes: Adsorption processes in dye-sensitized solar cells; Modification and optimization of activated carbon. Biological Chemistry: Investigate the morphology of amyloid fibrils; Visualize other biological macromolecules.

Jason Green

Professor Green's research focuses on solving complex chemical problems with statistical mechanics. Problems of interest include self-assembly, the mixing of complex liquids, and combustion. A significant effort is to develop theoretical and computational methodologies that will enable more energy and atom efficient chemistry, and to improve our understanding of the reaction environments underlying chemical and biological reactions.

Selected publications:

Reactive symbol sequences for a model of hydrogen combustion Mohammad Alaghemandi, Jason R. Green Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 2016 18(4), p. 2810-2817

Order and disorder in irreversible decay processes Jonathan W. Nichols, Shane W. Flynn, Jason R. Green
The Journal of Chemical Physics 2015 142(6) p. 064113

Measuring disorder in irreversible decay processes Shane W. Flynn, Helen C. Zhao, Jason R. Green
The Journal of Chemical Physics 2014 141(10) p. 104107

A relationship between dynamical entropy and energy dissipation far from thermodynamic equilibrium
Jason R. Green, Anthony B. Costa, Bartosz A. Grzybowski, Igal Szleifer
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2013 110(41) p. 16339-16343


Jonathan Rochford

Green chemistry projects in Prof. Rochford's research group are focused on the development of nanoparticle-molecule architectures towards applications in solar driven catalysis. Fundamental processes such as proton coupled electron-transfer (PCET) and charge-separation in the solid state are investigated. Major interests include CO2 reduction and water oxidation catalysis.


Selected Publications:

“Characterization of Redox States of Ru(OH2)(Q)(tpy)2+ (Q = 3,5-di-tert-butyl-1,2- benzoquinone, tpy = 2,2’:6’,2”-terpyridine) and Related Species through Experimental and Theoretical Studies” Tsai M.-K.; Rochford J.; Polyansky D. E.; Tanaka K.; Fujita E.; Muckerman J. T., Inorg. Chem., 2009, 48, 4372.

"Photoelectrochemical Behavior of Polychelate Porphyrin Chromophores and Titanium Dioxide Nanotube Arrays for Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells" de Tacconi N. R.; Chanmanee W.; Rajeshwar K.; Rochford J.; Galoppini E., J. Phys. Chem. C, 2009, 113, 2926.

"Zn (II) Tetraarylporphyrins Anchored to TiO2, ZnO and ZrO2 Nanoparticle Films Through Rigid-Rod Linkers" Rochford J.; Gallopini E. Langmuir, 2008, 24, 5366.

"Tetrachelate Porphyrin Chromophores for Metal Oxide Semiconductor Sensitization: The effect of Spacer Length and Anchoring Group Position" Rochford J.; Chu D.; Hagfeldt A.; Galoppini, E. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2007, 129, 4655.

Fast Electron Transport in MOCVD-Grown Dye-Sensitized ZnO Nanorod Solar Cells" Galoppini E.; Rochford J.; Chen H.; Saraf G.; Lu Y.; Hagfeldt A.; Boschloo G. J. Phys. Chem. B, 2006, 110, 16159.

Neil Reilly

Prof. Reilly’s research aims to identify reactive molecules known or thought to be involved in the early stages of combustion and pyrolysis of biomass and fossil fuels. Particular targets of interest are radicals that can lead to the formation of environmentally harmful byproducts such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Transient species are produced from stable fuel precursors in a discharge or thermal cracking source and isolated in a vacuum chamber to “freeze out” further chemistry. Subsequently, laser-based mass-selective and fluorescence spectroscopies are employed to interrogate the products and determine their electronic and molecular structures, which are vital inputs for validating and generating models of combustion chemistry.

Selected publications:

“Jet-Cooled Spectroscopy of the a-methylbenzyl radical: probing the state-dependent effects of methyl rocking against a radical site", Kidwell, N. M., Reilly, N. J., Nebgen, B., Mehta-Hurt, D. N., Hoehn, R. D., Kokkin, D. L., McCarthy, M. C., Slipchenko, L. V., Zwier, T. S., Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 2013, 117(50):13465-80.

“Spectroscopic Identification of the Resonance- Stabilized cis- and trans-1-Vinylpropargyl Radicals", Reilly, N. J., Nakajima, M., Troy, T. P., Chalyavi, N., Duncan, K. A., Nauta, K., Kable, S. H., Schmidt, T. W., Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2009, 131, (37), 13423-13429.

“Laser-induced fluorescence and dispersed fluorescence spectroscopy of jet-cooled 1-phenylpropargyl radical", Reilly, N. J.; Nakajima, M.; Gibson, B. A.; Schmidt, T. W., Kable, S. H., Journal of Chemical Physics, 2009, 130, (14), 144313.

“Spectroscopic observation of the resonance-stabilized 1-phenylpropargyl radical", Reilly, N. J.; Kokkin, D. L.; Nakajima, M.; Nauta, K.; Kable, S. H.; Schmidt, T. W., Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2008, 130, (10), 3137-3142.

Hannah Sevian

The Sevian Research Group studies how students develop conceptual understanding of chemistry and how research-based instruction and materials impact student learning, particularly in chemistry; how scientists and science teachers can communicate science more effectively; and how to improve the pipeline for students in K-12 and higher education, particularly in urban schools, to remain in science career pathways.

Chemical thinking framework (DOI: 10.1039/C3RP00111C)

Selected publications:

Banks, B.; Clinchot, M.; Cullipher, S.; Huie, R.; Lambertz, J.; Lewis, R.; Ngai, C.; Sevian, H.; Szteinberg, G.; Talanquer, V.; Weinrich. M. Uncovering chemical thinking in students' decision making: A fuel-choice scenario. J. Chem. Educ. 2015, 92(10), 1610-1618.

Cullipher, S.; Sevian, H.; Talanquer. V. Reasoning about benefits, costs, and risks of chemical substances: Mapping different levels of sophistication. Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 2015, 16, 377-392.

Ngai, C.; Sevian, H.; Talanquer, V. What is this substance? What makes it different? Mapping progression in students' assumptions about chemical identity. Intl. J. Sci. Educ., 2014, 36(14), 2438-2461.

Sevian, H.; Bernholt, S.; Szteinberg, G.; Auguste, S.; Pérez, L.C. Use of representation mapping to capture abstraction in problem solving in different courses in chemistry. Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 2015, 16, 429-446.

Sevian, H.; Talanquer, V. Rethinking chemistry: A learning progression on chemical thinking. Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2014, 15(1), 10-23. 

Bela Torok

Green chemistry projects in Prof. Torok's research group are focused on the development of environmentally benign synthetic methods for the preparation of fine chemicals and compounds of medicinal interests. The major directions include the application of catalysis and unusual activation methods. Within these areas we concentrate on (i) solid acid catalysis (ii) metal-catalyzed enantioselective heterogeneous catalytic hydrogenations, (iii) microwave-assisted synthesis and (iv) asymmetric organocatalysis.


Selected Publications:

Medicinal Chemistry: B. Torok: A. Rudnitskaya, K. Huynh, B. Torok, K. Stieglitz: Novel Heteroaromatic Organofluorine Inhibitors of Fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase. J. Med. Chem. 2009, 52, 878-882.

Solid acid catalysis: S. Dasgupta, B. Torok: Environmentally Benign Contemporary Friedel-Crafts Chemistry by Solid Acids. Current Org. Synth. 2008, 5, 321-342. (invited review)

Metal-catalyzed enantioselective heterogeneous catalytic hydrogenations: S. C. Mhadgut, M. Torok, S. Dasgupta, B. Torok: Nature of Proline-Induced Enantiodifferentiation in Asymmetric Pd Catalyzed Hydrogenations: Is the Catalyst Really Indifferent? Catal. Lett. 2008,123, 156-163.

Microwave-assisted synthesis: M. Abid, B. Torok, X. Huang: Microwave-Assisted Tandem Processes for the Synthesis of N-Heterocycles. Aus. J. Chem. 2009, 62, 208-222 (invited review).

Asymmetric organocatalysis: B. Torok, M. Abid, G. London, J. Esquibel, M. Torok, S. C. Mhadgut, P. Yan, G. K. S. Prakash: Highly Enantioselective Organocatalytic Hydroxyalkylation of Indoles with ethyl trifluoropyruvate. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2005, 44, 3086-3089.

Marianna Torok

The researchers in Prof. Torok's group focus on understanding the driving force, mechanism and control of the self-assembly of amyloid peptides. From the perspective of green chemistry, we would like to learn more on the environmental factors affecting this process, and how these results can be translated into biomedical and material science applications. We are also interested in finding alternative environmentally benign (green) methods for the synthesis of peptides and peptide-based biomaterials.

Selected Publications:

Datta S, Sood A, Torok M. Green Alternatives in Peptide Synthesis. Current Organic Synthesis (in preparation).

Sood A, Abid M, Hailemichael S, Foster M, Torok B, Torok M. Effect of Chirality of Small Molecule Organofluorine Inhibitors of Amyloid Self-Assembly on Inhibitor Potency. Biorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters 19: 6931-6934, 2009.

Torok B, Dasgupta S., Torok M. Chemistry of Small Molecule Inhibitors in Self-Assembly of Alzheimer's Disease Related Amyloid-Beta Peptide. Current Bioactive Compounds 4: 159-174, 2008.

Torok M, Abid M, Mhadgut SC, Torok B. Organofluorine Inhibitors of Amyloid Fibrillogenesis. Biochemistry 45: 5377-5383, 2006.

Torok M, Milton S, Kayed R, Wu P, McIntire T, Glabe CG, Langen R. Structural and Dynamic Features of Alzheimer's A Peptide in Amyloid Fibrils Studied by Site-Directed Spin Labeling. Journal of Biological Chemistry 277: 40810-5, 2002.

Wei Zhang

Green chemistry research projects in Prof. Zhang's group are carried out through the development of fluorous technologies for organic and medicinal chemistry applications.  The green technologies include chromatography-free separations, metal-free and recyclable organocatalysts, atom/step economic one-pot and multicomponent reactions.

Selected publications:

Huang, X.; Pham, K.; Yi, W.; Zhang, X.; Clamens C.; Hyatt, J. P.; Jasinsk, J. P.; Tayvah, U.; Zhang, W. “Recyclable Organocatalyst-promoted One-pot Asymmetric Synthesis of Spirooxindoles Bearing Multiple Stereogenic Centers” Adv. Synth. Catal. 2015, 357, 3820-3824.

McKeown, M.; Shaw, D.; Fu, H.; Liu, S.; Xu, X.; Marineau, J.; Huang, Y.; Zhang, X.; Buckley, D.; Lin, C.; Kadam, A.; Zhang, Z.; Blacklow, S.; Qi, J.; Zhang, W.; Bradner, J. “Biased multicomponent reactions to develop novel bromodomain inhibitors” J. Med. Chem. 2014, 57, 9019-9027.

Zhang, W., Cue, B. Eds. Green Techniques for Organic Synthesis and Medicinal Chemistry; Wiley, 2012.

Zhang, W. "Green Chemistry Aspects of Fluorous Techniques - Opportunities and Challenges for Small-Scale Organic Synthesis" Critical review article, Green Chem. 2009, 11, 911-920.

Zhang, W. "Fluorous Linker-Facilitated Chemical Synthesis" Chem. Rev. 2009, 109, 749-795.