Alumni (Fellow)

Mike Webster-Gardiner

Jefferson Arts and Sciences Dissertation Year Fellow
Class: 2016
Hometown: Mims, Florida
B.A., Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University (2011); Ph.D., Grad (2016)

Michael was recently selected to receive the Jefferson Scholars Foundation Dissertation Year Fellowship for 2015-2016. His thesis title is tentatively called ‘The study of hydrocarbon C-H functionalization by rhodium complexes’. This chemical research is directly related to global energy issues, specifically natural gas, as well as industrial chemical synthesis. A key area for efficient chemical usage is the direct and selective CH bond activation and functionalization. Through his research, Michael has designed and synthesized multiple organorhodium complexes for CH activation and selective CC bond formation. One example of this is the production of styrene, a monomer of the ubiquitous polystyrene. Currently industrial methods for styrene require high temperatures, multiple steps, and generation of stoichiometic waste products. With one of the catalysts Michael designed this challenging synthesis has been accomplished in one step with mild conditions. This research has, so far, produced three scientific papers, including recently in Science, and one submitted patent application through UVa’s Licensing and Ventures group. He will be presenting his research at the chemical conference, Pacifichem, this December in Hawaii. For the previous four years Michael has also been the recipient of the AES Graduate Fellowship in Energy Research, which has allowed him to focus on research during the academic years. Michael was also recently awarded an honorable mention by the International Precious Metals Institute for his research with rhodium catalysts. In his final year, Michael plans on expanding his studies with organorhodim compounds to include other substrates such as propylene to generate linear alkyl benzenes.

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