University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

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The Tolman Group works at the interfaces of inorganic, biological, and polymer chemistry to address important problems related to human health and the environment.


Overview of Research

Current research in the Tolman group encompasses synthetic bioinorganic and organometallic/polymer chemistry. In the bioinorganic area, our objective is to gain a fundamental structural, spectroscopic, and mechanistic understanding of metalloprotein active sites of biological and environmental importance via the synthesis, characterization, and examination of the reactivity of model complexes. The current goal of our research in the organometallic/polymer area is to synthesize and characterize a variety of metal complexes for use as catalysts for the polymerization of cyclic esters and for converting biomass feedstocks to useful monomers. In this project, particular emphasis is being placed on developing controlled synthesis of polymers derived from renewable resources.

While the synthesis of new molecules lies at the center of our research effort, we also use a wide array of techniques to characterize the compounds we prepare and to examine their reactivity. Among the characterization methods that we use are X-ray crystallography, NMR, EPR, UV-Vis, FTIR, and resonance Raman spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, GC/M, SEC, DSC, tensile testing, and cyclic voltammetry. We also endeavor to unravel reaction mechanisms through kinetics and isotope labeling experiments. Students and postdoctoral associates in the group thus obtain a highly multidisciplinary training in the synthesis, structural and spectroscopic characterization, and mechanistic study of organic, inorganic, and organometallic molecules and polymers.

Financial support for the research is provided by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, DARPA, Bridgestone, and BASF.

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Recent News

** Welcome to Dr. Elodie Marlier, who just joined the group as a postdoctoral associate. Elodie received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, having worked with Profs. Kris McNeill and Connie Lu, and has been a lecturer at St. Olaf College. She is co-advised by Prof. Marc Hillmyer on a project supported by the Center for Sustainable Polymers.--9/14
** Congratulations to Maria O. Miranda, who successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis entitled "Polymerization Kinetics of Cyclic Esters by Metal Alkoxide Complexes and Catalytic Decarbonylation of Bio-Derived Carboxylic Acids to Commodity Alkenes"! Maria, who has been co-advised by Prof. Marc Hillmyer, will take some time off this summer before starting a position at 3M. We wish her the very best as she moves onto the next stage of her career!--5/14
** The paper "Aliphatic Polyester Block Polymers: Renewable, Degradable, and Sustainable" by Marc A. Hillmyer and William B. Tolman has appeared online in Acc. Chem. Res.(
** New publication has appeared online: "Oxygen-Bridged Dicopper(II,III) and (III,III) Complexes: Models for Putative Intermediates in Oxidation Catalysis" Mohammad Reza Halvagar, Pavlo V. Solntsev, Hyeongtaek Lim, Britt Hedman, Keith O. Hodgson, Edward I. Solomon,Christopher J. Cramer, and William B. Tolman, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, ASAP (DOI: 10.1021/ja503629r). -- 5/14
** New publication has appeared online: "Linkage Isomerism in Transition Metal Complexes of Mixed (Arylcarboxamido)(arylimino)pyridine Ligands" David W. Boyce, Debra J. Salmon, and William B. Tolman, Inorg. Chem. 2014, 53, ASAP (DOI: 10.1021/ic500638z). -- 5/14