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Professor Bert Chandler grew up in Northern Virginia, about 15 miles from downtown Washington, D.C. He went to college at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga., where he earned a B.S. in chemistry as a Bell Honors Program scholar. Beyond studying chemistry, he played on the GSU men's volleyball team, was a student member of the Honors Council, and did undergraduate research working with organometallic cobalt clusters.
Chandler moved to Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota to complete his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry under the direction of professor Lou Pignolet. His graduate thesis involved the preparation of bimetallic catalysts from inorganic and organometallic cluster compounds. He was heavily involved as a teaching assistant for the general chemistry lecture and laboratory courses, as well as the undergraduate advanced inorganic chemistry lab and a couple graduate level inorganic chemistry courses.
The summer after defending his thesis, Chandler served as a lecturer for the nursing major chemistry course. He then began a postdoctoral fellowship working with professor Mike Amiridis in the department of chemical engineering, University of South Carolina. He went to Columbia, S.C., to learn some engineering, particularly the basics of reactor systems and in-situ infrared spectroscopy. His position was funded by BASF, and his primary project involved studying proprietary sorbents that remove trace amounts of S and As from polymerization catalysts feeds.
"Catalysis [is] the enabling discipline in energy supply and conversion, in the synthesis of fuels and chemicals, and in our thoughtful care for the environment; it remains an essential contributor to quality of life and to sustainable growth in the world at large." — Enrique Iglesia, U.C., Berkeley
I like this statement because it focuses on both the practical aspects and larger value of catalysis as a field. One of the reasons catalysis is so important is that it is involved in so many processes that impact our lives every day: energy supply and conversion, chemical synthesis (this includes synthesis of pharmaceuticals), and environmental chemistry. In most cases, a catalyst provides a new, lower energy reaction mechanism that is not available to the reactants by themselves. This is what makes catalysis an "enabling discipline." It allows us to do chemical reactions that we would otherwise be impossible, and do them in a controlled way. As the world looks to develop new chemistry, like finding ways to use plants and biomass to generate fuels and chemicals, we will continue to develop new catalysts in order to make these processes, clean, efficient, and inexpensive. This is how catalysis contributes to our overall quality of life and why continued advances will be necessary for sustainable growth.
Chandler's research group is primarily interested in developing fundamental understanding of catalysts and catatalytic processes, and ultimately in developing new catalysts for energy supply and environmental chemistry. We are developing new nanoparticle synthesis protocols that are tailored to heterogeneous catalyst preparation, in our efforts to discover new ways of preparing unique catalysts. In doing so, we are trying to understand how nanoparticle structure and composition affect catalytic properties for important reactions in energy and biomass conversion, under the broad umbrella of environmental catalysis.
Catalysis is an inherently multi-disciplinary field, which means that there is something for everyone: chemical synthesis, Inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and some engineering. We do a lot of nanoparticle synthesis and study the individual synthetic steps. We are also doing a good bit of organic chemistry, studying organic reactions to help understand how our nanoparticles change under different conditions. We are developing ways to employ enzyme reactions and terminology to help understand nanoparticle catalysts. And, of course, we do a number of basic physical and inorganic chemistry measurements to quantify and understand the differences between catalysts.