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The Levinson Emerging Scholars Program

Ben Horst - Biochemistry, Chemistry

Ben HorstBen is currently a senior and will graduate in the spring with degrees in Chemistry (BS, ACS certified), Biochemistry (BA), and Mathematics (minor) as well as College Honors and Departmental Honors in Chemistry and Biochemistry. He got his first research experience the summer after his freshman year in the lab of Professor Sarah Keller fabricating and analyzing model cellular membranes. With the Keller group he presented work at the Undergraduate Research Symposium, the Northwest ACS Undergraduate Symposium, and the 2012 National Biophysical Society Meeting. The time he spent in the Keller Lab propelled him to take the next step in his research career by joining the group of Professor James Mayer in studying inorganic chemistry, specifically reduction/oxidation and biomimetic inorganic chemistry, and nanoparticles. When Ben first joined the Mayer group, he undertook a project himself without a graduate student or postdoctoral mentor to study a specific type of reduction/oxidation mechanism called a Multiple-Site Concerted Proton Electron Transfer reaction in which a carbon hydrogen bond is cleaved by transferring the proton to a base and the electron to an oxidant. Now he is collaborating on a new project that combines TiO2 nanoparticles and Concerted Proton Electron Transfer to complete a non-trivial two electron, two proton transfer under relatively mild conditions.

When not in the lab, Ben enjoys TAing in the Chemistry department, running, hiking, sports, and music, playing snare drum in the University of Washington Drumline and singing bass in an a cappella choir on campus.

Mentor: James Mayer & Sarah Keller, Chemistry

Project Title: Model System for Multiple Site Concerted Proton Electron Transfer

Abstract: Reduction/oxidation reactions are crucial for energy transfer in a wide variety of applications such as water oxidation, water remediation, and biological processes. Proton Couple Electron Transfer (PCET) reactions are increasingly recognized as an important class of this type of reaction. As hinted by their name, these reactions involve the transfer of a proton and an electron from a substrate to other molecules. However, PCET reactions can be delineated further into Single Site PCET reactions, where a single reagent acts as both the electron and proton acceptor, and Multiple Site PCET reactions, where different molecules accept either the proton or the electron. This investigation focuses on these specific Multiple Site PCET reactions (MS-PCET) which are generally not well understood, specifically the breaking of a C-H bond. Using a model system consisting of an oxidant (FeIII(bpy)3-), a base (2,2'-bipyridine) and a substrate (9,10-dihydroanthracene), MS-PCET reactivity will be monitored in an attempt to understand the kinetics of the reaction. Different techniques are used to elucidate the progression of the reaction including UV/Visible and 1H NMR spectroscopy, and stopped-flow injection. The rate of reaction is dependent on each of the reaction components, as well as solvent, temperature, and the surrounding atmosphere. Kinetic analysis of the reaction will eliminate other proton electron transfer reactions and show that the Multiple Site PCET is the singular, plausible mechanism. These reactions will help to establish an understanding of MS-PCET reactions which are crucial to so many biological systems and new technologies such as fuel cells and solar energy.