Research @ UWinnipeg Chemistry

Air-Water Behavior of Hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs) in Lake Winnipeg

Dr. Ken Friesen

The environmental and analytical chemistry of persistent organic chemicals including environmental reactivity or persistence, photocatalytic degradation, air-water exchange, and analytical methods. Current projects involve photolytic studies of short-chain polychlorinated n-alkanes (PCAs) and synthetic polymers, air-water behavior of hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs) in Lake Winnipeg and LC-MS/MS analysis of fluorinated organic compounds (FOCs).

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Science of Paint

Dr. Douglas Goltz

My research is primarily in the area of analytical chemistry and the science of paint that is used use in artwork. Paint usually consists of a pigment that is combined with a binding material. Many pigments consist of inorganic compounds [ e.g. 2PbCO3·Pb(OH)2] . Common binding agents consist of oil, water or egg (tempera). I am currently active in a variety of projects involving:

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Pheromone Biosynthesis

Dr. Désirée Vanderwel

My long-term goal is to understand the biochemistry of pheromone production in a model beetle species, Tenebrio molitor (the yellow mealworm beetle), in the context of the biology of the organism and its interaction with its environment.

Beetles effect a staggering economic and social impact on humankind through the destruction of field crops, stored products and forests. Conversely, many beetles are beneficial as predators of insect pests. Knowledge gained in the quest to understand coleopteran biochemistry could be exploited to control pest species, or aid in the management of beneficial species.

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Single Molecule Enzymology

Dr. Douglas B. Craig

Chemical studies typically involve measurements of large ensembles of molecules with data representing averages. With respect to enzymes, we now know such average values represent a simplification. Single enzyme molecule assay utilizing ultrasensivitive capillary electrophoresis laser-induced fluorescence instrumentation have demonstrated that individual enzyme molecules are not identical. Individual molecules differ with respect to rate and activation energy of catalysis. My research interests are in the study of the basis and function of the heterogeneity of enzyme molecules and its role within the cell. A second interest is the development of ultrasensitive methods for the analysis of biological molecules, particulary enzymes and proteins.

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Nitric Oxide, and Reactive Oxygen in Health Disease and Industry

Dr. Michael O. Eze

Humanity is (to varying extents) under chronic exposure to nitric oxide (NO) and reactive oxygen species (ROS), as well as related substances. These come from exogenous pollutants (cigarette smoke, factory and automobile exhaust gases, etc), and from endogenous sources (neuronal and cardiovascular NO synthases form low levels of NO for regulatory events; at sites of inflammation and infection, and around cancerous cells, phagocytes and other immune/inflammatory cells form copious amounts of NO and ROS in response to the same chemical and particulate stimuli; our normal aerobic metabolic activities, including oxidative electron transport chronically produce ROS; etc). ROS include superoxide (O2-), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), hypochlorite (OCl-), etc. An oxidative stress is imposed on the cell by the presence of ROS and NO. Some chemotherapeutic agents may impose oxidative stress in the cell as part of their mode of action [e.g., artemisinine against malaria].

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Discovery of new small molecule cancer therapeutics.

Dr. Tabitha Wood

Our research interests lie in the area of medicinal chemistry, specifically in the discovery of new small molecule cancer therapeutics. Often, adverse side effects are experienced by chemotherapy patients due to the indiscriminant cytotoxic activities of cancer drugs. Researchers have made excellent progress in creating targeted drugs for cancer chemotherapy, but there remains a great opportunity to develop new drugs that offer decreased side-effects while potently treating this diverse disease. Our research in this area involves using some established organic synthetic methods, as well as developing new organic reactions, for creating small libraries of new potential chemotherapeutic drugs. The molecules will not only be characterized for typical evidence of identity and purity, but also for specific biological activities. In doing so, we hope to gain a better understanding of the complex factors involved in targeting tumors over normal healthy tissue. Interdisciplinary research of this nature creates the opportunity for trainees to learn skills from the field of synthetic organic chemistry as well as biochemistry.

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Air-Water Behavior of Hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs) in Lake Winnipeg

Dr. Ken Friesen

The environmental and analytical chemistry of persistent organic chemicals including environmental reactivity or persistence, photocatalytic degradation, air-water exchange, and analytical methods. Current projects involve photolytic studies of short-chain polychlorinated n-alkanes (PCAs) and synthetic polymers, air-water behavior of hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs) in Lake Winnipeg and LC-MS/MS analysis of fluorinated organic compounds (FOCs).

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Elucidating the fate, behavior, and effects of anthropogenic compounds in the environment.

Dr. Charles S. Wong

My research interests are in the area of environmental chemistry, and focus on elucidating the fate, behavior, and effects of anthropogenic compounds in the environment. A thorough understanding of how chemical pollutants move, react, and persist in the environment is crucial for finding solutions to the risks they may pose to the public, to wildlife, and to environmental resources. Of particular interest are chemicals that are widely produced and released as a result of human activity, and/or chemicals that bioaccumulate up aquatic and terrestrial food webs that are globally distributed from long-range transport.

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Inorganic Compound Discovery for Materials Science and Catalysis

Dr. Ritch, Jamie

Issues such as renewable energy and pollution management continue to provide challenges for scientists. Synthetic chemistry provides access to novel compounds with properties that can be tailored to specific applications, such as these areas of current interest.

We are interested in designing main group element-based ligands, to take advantage of the wide variety of chemical behaviour found in the s- and p-blocks of the periodic table. The coordination chemistry of ligands containing the heavy chalcogens selenium and tellurium is being investigated. Such complexes are of fundamental interest in terms of bonding and structure, but also as precursors to solid state materials for use in advanced electronics.

Another ligand system being explored involves compounds with both Lewis basic and acidic centres. Molecules with such arrangements can act as a scaffold to engender unusual reactivity in otherwise inert molecules, such as hydrocarbons or CO2. This type of chemical activation is highly desirable for catalytic organic transformations.

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Isolation of New Pharmaceutical Agents from Marine Organisms

Dr. Athar Ata

Natural products are organic compounds, which are isolated from natural sources such as marine organism, microorganisms and plants. These organisms rely mainly on their chemical defense by producing these compounds also termed as secondary metabolites. Natural products are source of new pharmaceutical agents. Recent survey indicate that ca.60% of anti-tumor and anti-infective agents that commercially available or in the late stages of clinical trails are of natural product origin. Our lab is involved in the isolation of bioactive natural products using by various chromatographic techniques like column chromatography (CC), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and thin layer chromatography (TLC). The structure of the pure secondary metabolites is established with the aid of extensive spectroscopic studies such as one-dimensional (1H-NMR, 13C-NMR, DEPT, NOE), two-dimensional (COSY, NOESY, TOCOSY, HMQC, HMBC) NMR experiments, mass spectrometry (EI, CI, FAB, FD, GC-MS, and linked scan), UV and IR spectrophotometery. After complete chracterization of pure natural product, we study detailed anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory activities of these compounds to find out their potential biomedical applications. For most bioactive natural products, we broaden our scope of investigations to biosynthetic and biotransformation aspects using cell free (crude enzyme preparation of marine organisms) and whole cell cultures of bacteria and fungi, respectively. The latter produce unnatural analogues, which help to study structure-activity relationship of bioactive natural product. The biosynthesis of bioactive compound is studied by incubation of stable isotopes or radioactively labeled precursors in cell free extract of plant or marine organism. Incorporation of these precursors helps to establish biosynthetic origin of these compounds in nature.

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Dr. Adam McCubbin

Much of modern asymmetric catalysis has its origins in enzyme biocatalysis. Although only about half of known enzymes contain metals in their active site, synthetic reactions mediated by metal catalysts are much more highly developed than those mediated by non-metals. This is despite the huge economic and environmental costs of extracting metals (e.g. Pd, Pt, Au), as well as their toxicity. Recently, significant efforts have been directed towards reactions mediated by small organic molecules (organocatalysis). This young field has generated many reactions that occur with impressive selectivity and efficiency, but the potential for the discovery of new catalyst types and new organocatalytic reactions remains high.
Boronic acids are widely available (commercially, synthetically) due primarily to their use as reagents in Pd-catalysed cross coupling reactions. In contrast to their use as reagents, use of boronic acids as organocatalysts remains rare. This is despite several attractive features that they possess, including the Lewis acidity of the boron atom, their low toxicity, high stability to air and moisture, and solubility in organic solvents. Our research program is based on exploiting these properties to develop new synthetic methods using catalysts based on boronic acids and related derivatives. In many cases these methods are complimentary to or improve upon transition metal catalysed reactions. We apply our new methods to the synthesis of medicinally important molecules, such as bio-active natural products and pharmaceuticals. Avoiding the use of transition metals in these syntheses has the advantage of reducing toxic byproducts and simplifying purification, thus reducing environmental impact.

 

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Discovery of new small molecule cancer therapeutics.

Dr. Tabitha Wood

Our research interests lie in the area of medicinal chemistry, specifically in the discovery of new small molecule cancer therapeutics. Often, adverse side effects are experienced by chemotherapy patients due to the indiscriminant cytotoxic activities of cancer drugs. Researchers have made excellent progress in creating targeted drugs for cancer chemotherapy, but there remains a great opportunity to develop new drugs that offer decreased side-effects while potently treating this diverse disease. Our research in this area involves using some established organic synthetic methods, as well as developing new organic reactions, for creating small libraries of new potential chemotherapeutic drugs. The molecules will not only be characterized for typical evidence of identity and purity, but also for specific biological activities. In doing so, we hope to gain a better understanding of the complex factors involved in targeting tumors over normal healthy tissue. Interdisciplinary research of this nature creates the opportunity for trainees to learn skills from the field of synthetic organic chemistry as well as biochemistry.

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Characterization of New Magnetic Oxides

Dr. Christopher Wiebe

I am interested in the synthesis and characterization of new magnetic oxides. As a former faculty member of Florida State University, I am currently supervising several graduate students in my synthesis and crystal growth lab there. I am also in the process of establishing a solid state chemistry lab here at the University of Winnipeg.

I am primarily interested in what are called strongly correlated electron systems, or materials which have unusual magnetic or electrical behavior. These include functional materials, such as new solid state batteries, multiferroics, or superconductors, but they also include systems of theoretical interest, such as geometrically frustrated magnets, low dimensional compounds, and heavy fermion compounds. As an experimentalist, my main methods of characterization include diffraction techniques such as x-ray scattering and neutron scattering, but the bulk of my time is spent on the synthesis and crystal growth of these new materials here at the University of Winnipeg.

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Development of new, more efficient, methods for modelling electronic structure.

Dr. Joshua Hollett

My research involves the development of new, more efficient, methods for modelling electronic structure.  Computational chemistry methods are plagued by the electron correlation problem.  Accurate calculations require models that correlate the motion of electrons, however conventional models are generally too expensive, computationally, for large systems.  An alternative is Natural Orbital Functional Theory (NOFT), which provides a framework for a economical and accurate treatment of electron correlation.   A solution to the correlation problem lies with the development of an accurate natural orbital correlation funcitonal.

I am also interested in the application of existing computational chemistry methodologies to complex chemical problems, particularly, computational virology. The development of treatments for devastating diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis C is deeply rooted in understanding the complex interactions between viruses and the immune system. Much can be learned about these interactions by studying viruses such as HIV and HCV and cells of the immune system at the molecular level. The proteins involved in virus replication, T-cell recognition, and drug interactions can all be modeled
computationally to shed light on this important biological problem.

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