Dr. Timothy Jackson, a bioinorganic chemistry professor, recently won the University Scholarly Achievement Award, a university-wide award given to mid-career faculty members based on their academic research.
The Jackson research group focuses on studying model complexes that mimic metalloenzymes which can be naturally found in the human body.
“In our bodies, a lot of those oxidation reduction reactions, processes that create energy for our bodies, are handled by metallic enzymes,” Jackson said. “And certain metallic enzymes, we’re trying to mimic with our model complexes, because actually controlling the reaction of oxygen is pretty challenging.”
These model complexes are created within the lab and extensively studied to understand the mechanisms of how the metalloenzymes work and how to manipulate particular structures within the enzyme.
In addition to establishing fundamental understanding of metalloenzymes, Jackson hopes that his research could be brought into practical applications within industries.
“The other motivation is if your model can do interesting catalytic reactions, it could be useful for industrial chemistry as well,” Jackson said.
“The metals our body uses are inexpensive and pretty nontoxic," Jackson said. "Whereas metals, often used in industry, are expensive and fairly toxic. And so there’s a push in the chemical industry to use what are called these Earth Abundant Metals that nature uses to do industrial catalysis.”
Priya Singh, a Ph.D. student studying chemistry, further emphasized the importance of studying suitable alternatives to current industrial metals.
“The concentration of those metals available on Earth is very low compared to the Earth Abundant Metals, and that’s another reason that industries are trying to find alternatives,” Singh said.
In addition to his work in sustainable model complexes, Jackson has worked to mentor many students within the chemistry department.
Brandon Nguyen, a sophomore studying chemistry, talked about his experience working under Jackson.
“I’m learning fundamental chemistry skills that I’m going to use further along in my career. This includes designing what experiment you want to do that day, preparing solutions, doing the experiment, and analyzing the data afterwards,” Nguyen said.
Jackson also commented on how his position as a research faculty member has been beneficial.
“Students have received training and learned how to think like a research scientist and I think that’s one of the big benefits of the program as well," Jackson said. "They’re all doing different things with their skills as a scientist.”