posted July 28, 2010

Chemist Jeff Johnson Receives National ACS Research Grant

Dr. Jeff Johnson, an assistant professor of chemistry and Towsley Research Scholar at Hope College, has received an Undergraduate New Investigator Grant from the American Chemical Society's Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF).

He has been awarded $50,000 for the next two years for his project "Toward Greater Understanding and Expanded Utility of the Palladium-Catalyzed Activation of Carbon-Carbon Single Bonds."  The ACS makes approximately 45 of the awards nationwide each year.

The Undergraduate New Investigator grants provide funds for scientists and engineers who are in the beginning years of their independent careers in academia, and are intended as seed money for generating preliminary results that can be used in applying for further funding from other agencies.  Recipients must be in departments without doctoral programs and must involve undergraduate students in the work being supported.

Johnson, who joined the Hope faculty in 2007, is working collaboratively with Hope students on developing new organic reactivity catalyzed by transition metals.  Work to be supported by this grant involves the detailed investigation of a known reaction that breaks carbon-carbon bonds - a transformation that is extremely difficult to achieve using traditional organic chemistry.  Results from these initial studies will be utilized to develop previously unknown methods for the construction of organic intermediates such as those suitable for the production of complex organic molecules such as pharmaceuticals.  Ultimately, he hopes to intercept intermediates from carbon-carbon bond cleavage with carbon dioxide to develop a reaction capable of producing basic organic starting materials currently derived from petroleum.

External support that he has received since joining the Hope faculty totals more than $0.5 million and includes a five-year Camille and Henry Dreyfus Faculty Start-Up Award, a Research Corporation Cottrell College Science Award and a National Science Foundation - Major Research Instrumentation award for a remotely accessible 400 MHz NMR spectrometer.  The college named him a Towsley Research Scholar in January of this year, providing additional support for his research program for the next four years.

Prior to coming to Hope, Johnson served as a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow at Colorado State University.  He previously completed his doctorate in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004.

He mentored undergraduate students while engaged in research at both Colorado State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He also participated in undergraduate research himself as a student at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., from which he earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 2000.

Founded in 1876, the American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C. and Columbus, Ohio.

The society's Petroleum Research Fund supports fundamental research directly related to petroleum or alternate energy at nonprofit institutions, generally colleges and universities, in the United States and other countries.  The first ACS PRF grants were approved in 1954.