Two Assistant Professors to Join Faculty

Nicole Becker
Scott Daly
Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 7:00pm

Two new faculty, Drs. Nicole Becker and Scott Daly, will be joining the University of Iowa Department of Chemistry this fall.

Nicole Becker is a chemistry education researcher who studies the ways in which undergraduate students learn chemistry concepts. Her work uses both qualitative and quantitative approaches to examining learning outcomes and the ways in which learning environments and instructional strategies support or constrain students’ ability to learn chemistry concepts. 

Nicole earned her B.S. in chemistry from South Dakota State University in 2004. She earned a PhD from Purdue University in 2012 for her work with Marcy Towns on the ways in which collaborative activity in a Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) environment supported student learning. As a postdoctoral researcher at Michigan State University, she worked on the development and assessment of a learning progression for energy ideas in the context of an undergraduate general chemistry curriculum called Chemistry, Life, the Universe and Everything (CLUE). Using a design-research approach to refine the progression of energy ideas in CLUE, the goal of this work was to develop curricular materials in order to support students’ ability to use energy ideas as tools to predict and explain a range of chemical phenomena.  

Her research interests center on the development and assessment of evidence-based curricular materials for undergraduate chemistry courses. In particular, she is interested in examining the ways in which undergraduate chemistry students engage in science practices such as constructing evidence-based explanations and modeling complex phenomena using mathematics and other representational resources.

Scott Daly earned his B.S. from North Central College after three years of active duty in the US Army.  He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and Urbana-Champaign in 2010 under the direction of Professor Gregory Girolami.  He then accepted a Seaborg Postdoctoral Fellowship at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico. There he worked with Dr. Stosh Kozimor and Dr. David Clark to explore chemical bonding in actinide extractants using ligand K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS).  Since then he has been on the faculty at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. 

Research in the Daly group focuses on the synthesis, reactivity, and analysis of inorganic and organometallic compounds. Members of our group learn to safely prepare synthetic targets using inert-atmosphere synthetic methods (Schlenk line and glovebox), and subsequently characterize new compounds using a range of analytical techniques (single crystal X-ray diffraction, multinuclear NMR spectroscopy, UV-Vis spectroscopy, IR spectroscopy, and XAS, to name a few). These efforts are currently being applied to the following areas.

Correlating Bonding and Reactivity Relationships using X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy

A core emphasis of our research is identifying bonding variations that lead to concerted differences in chemical reactivity. We use emerging spectroscopies such as ligand K-edge XAS to search for unique bonding features in metal complexes that exhibit unprecedented reactivity, and then isolate the responsible ligand design elements in a systematic approach. Once isolated, we capitalize on our synthetic capabilities to prepare new complexes capable of improving upon the desired reactivity. This informed approach to chemical design is currently being used in a wide variety of applications that include homogeneous catalysis, understanding heavy-element toxicity, and nuclear fuel cycles.

Exploratory Coordination Chemistry and Ligand Design

We continue to push the boundaries of coordination chemistry by establishing ligand platforms that can actively participate in catalytic transformations, impart stability in low valent metal complexes, or promote unusual bonding motifs. The primary aim of these studies is to identify innovative ways to achieve small-molecule transformations, especially with earth-abundant elements.

Molecular Capsules for Radioimmunotherapy and Medical Imaging

Metal-based radiopharmaceuticals show significant promise for targeted cancer treatment applications, but two challenges have limited their development for broader use: (1) the lack of suitable chelators to prevent metal loss in vivo and (2) slow excretion of the pharmaceutical and radioactive metabolites from the kidneys. To cooperatively address both of these challenges, we are developing new synthetic methods to prepare metal-templated molecular capsules with chemical properties that can be tailored to improve renal clearance.