Recent PostsYoung Researcher Award from the Spanish Royal Society of Chemistry Visiting Prof. Pérez Group at the CIQSO Institute Perspective article published in ACS Catalysis Appointed Senior Researcher at the Hylleraas Centre for Quantum Molecular Sciences ! New Center of Excellence ! The Hylleraas Center for Quantum Molecular Sciences Visiting Scholarship with the Tilley group at UC Berkeley Open-Access Gold(III) at Dalton Transactions Watch us on YouTube! Development of new hydroamination catalysts published in ACS Catalysis Keynote speaker at the Girona Seminar
I am very proud of being awarded by the Spanish Royal Society of Chemistry with the Prize for Young Researchers leading a group. The award is given annually and the candidates are nominated by the members of the society and selected by a scientific committee. This award recognizes the scientific career of young researchers who are leading their own group. The main criteria for awarding the prize are scientific excellence and independence. I will receive the award in a ceremony that will be held in Spain this fall. More information about the 2020 awards of the Spanish Royal Society of Chemistry is available in Spanish in this link.
This summer, Ainara and I visited the group of professor Pedro Pérez at the CIQSO Institute for the entire month of July 2019. The Institute is located at the campus of the University of Huelva, in Spain. The research of the group led by Prof. Pérez focuses on homogeneous catalysis by transition metal complexes and has a high international visibility in this field. The visit was used to strengthen our collaboration with this group and for scientific discussion with the CIQSO scholars. We contributed to the scientific activities of the institute with two talks on our research at the Hylleraas Centre, one focused on metal organic frameworks (Ainara) and the other on machine learning (I). I also contributed with two seminars on the fundamental principles of DFT and its application to Catalysis. We acknowledge the hospitality given by the group and the whole institute during our research stay at Huelva.
Working together with Ainara Nova at the Hylleraas Centre of Excellence for Quantum Molecular Sciences, we published a Perspective article in ACS Catalysis on the design of metal catalysts for cross-coupling reactions. The article was among the most-read of the ACS Catalysis journal, after its publication on April 2018. Cross-coupling catalysts enable the fast and clean production of valuable chemicals, including pharmaceutical drugs and advanced materials. In general, catalysts transform reactants into products without being consumed, by means of a cyclic mechanism. In this mechanism, known as catalytic cycle, the last chemical reaction connects directly to the first by recovering the catalyst. Traditionally, research on catalyst design has focused on the chemical reactions occurring within the cycle. Over a period of 6 years, in a series of collaborative studies with the group of Prof. Hazari (Yale Univ., USA), we combined state-of-the-art computational and experimental techniques to study reactions taking place outside the cycle. The project involved the training of three students through international PhD exchange programs. The molecular understanding of the unproductive 'off-cycle' reactions provided new opportunities to design catalysts with enhanced activity and robustness. The studies showed that certain molecular fragments of the catalyst, which would otherwise play an spectator role in the reaction, can be modified to prevent detrimental off-cycle reactions. This approach also showed promise in the current attempts to replace commonly used metals, like palladium, by cheaper and environmentally friendly alternatives, like nickel. The work was strongly supported since 2012 by the Research Council of Norway through the Centre of Excellence for Theoretical and Computational Chemistry. We also obtained generous funding from the Marie Curie and NSF GROW programs.
I started my research in Norway in the fall of 2012 at the CTCC Research Center of Excellence. Though I started with a Postdoctoral position with both Mats Tilset and Trygve Helgaker as scientists in charge, I should acknowledge both of them for the total freedom and independence that I was given from the first day. In 2014, I was awarded a Marie-Curie fellowship which allowed to upgrade my temporary position to Researcher until 2018. From a scientific point of view, 2012-2018 was a very productive period, with more than 35 publications and 1,800 citations. Thanks to the success of the CTCC, in 2017 the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oslo was awarded a new Research Center of Excellence - The Hylleraas Centre for Quantum Molecular Sciences. On February 1st, I was appointed permanent Senior Researcher at the Hylleraas Centre, in which I will act as co-PI of the Catalysis section.
After the great achievements of the CTCC (Center for Theoretical and Computational Chemistry), the Research Council of Norway granted the Universities of Oslo and Tromsø with a new SFF Center of Excellence - The Hylleraas Center for Quantum Molecular Sciences; for the period 2017-2027, with one mid-term evaluation. The Center is named after Egil Hylleraas, a Norwegian Theoretical Physicist known for his fundamental work on predicting the ground state energy of two-electron atoms. The main focus of the Center will be on matter-radiation interactions and, following the success of the CTCC, will also involve a Catalysis section. The Hylleraas Center will be an excellent research environment to develop our current projects on catalytic water oxidation and carbon dioxide reduction, in both molecular systems and nanoporous materials.
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© D. Balcells, except where noted.