LAWRENCE — An assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kansas has received one of the most prestigious awards given to junior faculty by the National Science Foundation.
The Faculty Early Career Development Award, known as the CAREER Award, will support Tim Jackson with a five-year, $480,000 grant. The CAREER Award supports junior faculty members who, according to NSF, “exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.”
Jackson will use the funding to research the potential for manganese catalysts as less expensive and less toxic alternatives to precious metals in industrial and medical applications. He will also create a science camp for middle school students.
“This award signifies Dr. Jackson as a researcher who shows significant promise to be a leader in his field,” said Danny J. Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “I look forward to seeing the results of his newest research.”
Jackson’s research studies the properties of manganese compounds to be able to control how they react with other molecules. Manganese is one of a group of chemical elements that can be used as a catalyst to turn simple molecules into more complex molecules. However, manganese compounds are less commonly used because they are not effective enough to compete with other conventional methods.
The research will focus on the structure of manganese compounds, specifically peroxomanganese compounds that develop in the intermediate stage of ‘functionalization’ reactions. Functionalization is common in the creation of petroleum-based chemical products such as plastics, pharmaceuticals and synthetic fabrics, and also is important in biological systems.
Jackson will work with graduate students at KU and a colleague in France to synthesize and test models of peroxomanganese compounds. By creating and studying models, the researchers will be able to manipulate the geometry and properties of the compounds to discover structural motifs that lead to the design of more effective catalysts.
“It’s our hope that by understanding the properties of peroxomanganese intermediates, we can develop strategies for making manganese catalysts more competitive,” Jackson said.
Jackson and his team at KU are using spectroscopic and computational techniques to characterize several peroxomanganese complexes that were made by research partners in France. In turn, Dr. Elodie Anxolabéhère-Mallart and her team at the Laboratoire D’Electrochimie Moleculaire at Université Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, will develop new electrochemical methods to make intermediates in higher yields.
In addition to his research, Jackson will create a two-day camp as an opportunity for middle school students to learn hands-on the importance of electromagnetic radiation — light — in modern technology and their daily lives.
Jackson has been at KU since 2007. He specializes in bioinorganic chemistry, biomimetic chemistry and biophysical chemistry. He earned his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and served as a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota.