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 currently provided by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the US-Israeli National Science Foundation.

Useful Links


Recent News

The paper "Sustainable Polyesters Derived from Glucose and Castor Oil: Building Block Structure Impacts Properties" by William Shearouse, Leon M. Lillie, Theresa Reineke, and W. Tolman is now available in ACS Macro Letters (click here) -- 2/16/15
The paper "Olefins from Biomass Feedstocks: Catalytic Ester Decarbonylation and Tandem Heck-type Coupling" by Alex John, Levi T. Hogan, and Marc A. Hillmyer is now available in Chemical Communications (click here). -- 1/13/2015
The paper "Hydrogen Atom Abstraction from Hydrocarbons by a Copper(III)-Hydroxide Complex" by Debanjan Dhar is now available online in J. Am. Chem. Soc. ( -- 1/12/15
Welcome to Courtney Elwell, who has just joined the group as a first year graduate student. Courtney received her undergraduate degree at Union College. She will work in the copper bioinorganic area.--11/14