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Associate Professor of Chemistry

Department of Chemistry
Colby College
5764 Mayflower Hill
Waterville, ME 04901-8857

(207) 859-5764 phone office Keyes 312
(207) 859-5774 phone lab Keyes 202
(207) 859-5750 secretary Keyes 108
(207) 859-5760 FAX

Education and Professional Experience:

  • Associate Professor of Chemistry (2004-present) Colby College
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry (2000-2004) Colby College
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry (1993-2000) University of Nevada, Reno
  • Postdoctoral (1991-1992) and NIH Postdoctoral Fellow (1992-1993), Johns Hopkins University (with Prof. Kenneth D. Karlin).
  • Ph.D. (1991), University of Washington (with Prof. James M. Mayer)
  • B.S. (1986), Eastern Washington University

Courses Frequently Associated With:

Research Interests:

       My current research plans involve synthetic, structural, reactivity and mechanistic coordination chemistry, primarily in the areas of bioinorganic and organotransition metal chemistry including catalytic systems.

        Organotransition Metal Chemistry.   We have synthesized and characterized a rare example of a copper-pi-arene complex that binds a naphthalene group in the solid state (right) and has provided the first unequivocal evidence for arene binding to the copper(I) ion in solution. This is essentially an unexplored area, giving us a range of opportunities to pursue, such as probing what factors strengthen the copper-arene binding. In the naphthalene-copper complex, we have found that the arene group binds weakly (upper limit to the bond strength of 12-13 kcal/mol). We have exploited that available coordination site, for instance, finding that the copper-naphthalene complex and related complexes are very good catalysts for the aziridination (shown below) and cyclopropanation of olefins. Both three-membered rings can be opened synthetically and, thus, are valuable organic synthetic intermediates, among other uses. We are currently focusing on the aziridination reaction as only a few other copper systems have been reported to catalyze this reaction. In addition, there is considerable disagreement about the mechanism from the handful of relevant experiments reported. We are pursuing a comprehensive study to find the optimum electronics about the copper center for the reaction. In addition, we are conducting extensive mechanistic studies to help understand this reaction to be able to ultimately design even better aziridination catalysts.
        Bioinorganic Chemistry.   We have synthesized and fully characterized one new Mo(V)-oxo tetrathiolate complex (right) and two new Ni(II) tetrathiolate complexes (below) with the 2,2'-dimercaptobiphenyl ligand. The ligand gives unusual properties to the complexes, for example, the Ni(II) complexes are square planar in geometry (Ni(II) aryl thiolate complexes are usually tetrahedral) and both complexes bind a second metal ion on one face of the complex (in one a Na ion, in the other a Ni ion) like is known for the [NiFe]-hydrogenases, although in those enzymes it is an iron ion. However, all three complexes are oxidatively sensitive to the loss of the ligand as the disulfide. Thus, we are making new derivatives of the ligand to inhibit ligand disulfide formation so that functional models of the enzymes can be developed.
       A variety of techniques will be used in this research, including both organic and inorganic syntheses, often requiring air-sensitive (high vacuum and/or Schlenk) and low-temperature manipulations. A number of characterizational methods will be employed, such as NMR, IR and UV-visible spectroscopies, mass spectrometry and X-ray crystallography. The reactivity of new complexes will be explored and mechanisms of interesting reactions determined, e.g. by following the reaction spectroscopically, acquiring kinetic and thermodynamic data and doing labeling studies.

Selected Publications:

"Copper Complexes with N-Alkylated NS2-Macrocyclic Ligands: Synthesis, Characterization, and Capabilities as Aziridination Catalysts" R. R. Conry,* A. A. Tipton, W. S. Striejewske, E. Erkizia, M. A. Malwitz, A. Caffaratti, and J. Natkin (Colby '01) Organometallics 2004, 23, 5210-5218.

"A mononuclear Mo(V) mono-oxo, biphenyl-2,2'-dithiolate complex in which the metal resides within a cleft formed by the ligands and that exhibits N-H to S hydrogen bonding in the solid state" R. R. Conry* and A. A. Tipton JBIC, 2001, 6, 359-366.

"Electronic Structure Studies of Oxomolybdenum Tetrathiolate Complexes: Origin of Reduction Potential Differences and Relationship to Cysteine-Molybdenum Bonding in Pyranopterin Molybdenum Enzymes" R. L. McNaughton, A. A. Tipton, N. D. Rubie, R. R. Conry,* and M. L. Kirk* Inorg. Chem., 2000, 39, 5697-5706.

"Synthesis and Characterization of Square Planar Nickel(II) Arylthiolate Complexes with the Biphenyl-2-,2'-dithiolate Ligand" E. Erkizia and R. R. Conry* Inorg. Chem., 2000, 39, 1674-1679.

"Copper(I) Complexes with a NS2-Macrocyclic Ligand Bearing a Pendant Naphthyl Group: Structures of {N-[2-(1-Naphthyl)ethyl]-1-aza-4,8-dithiacyclodecane}Cu(I)-Ligand, where Ligand = eta2-Naphthalene, Acetonitrile or Triphenylphosphine" R. R. Conry,* W. S. Striejewske, and A. A. Tipton Inorg. Chem., 1999, 38, 2833-2843.

"Synthesis and Characterization of Copper(I) Complexes with a Fairly Bulky Tris(pyrazolyl)hydroborate Ligand. Probing the Flexibility of the Metal-Containing Pocket Formed by the Ligand" R. R. Conry,* G. Ji, and A. A. Tipton Inorg. Chem., 1999, 38, 906-913.

"Synthesis and Characterization of the First Pentaphenylcyclopentadienyl Copper(I) Complex, (Ph5Cp)Cu(PPh3)" Q. T. Anderson, E. Erkizia, and R. R. Conry* Organometallics, 1998, 17, 4917-4920.

"NMR Evidence for the Unprecedented Binding of a Naphthalene Group to Copper(I) in Solution" R. R. Conry* and W. S. Striejewske Organometallics, 1998, 17, 3146-3148.

"Synthesis of Copper(I) Complexes with a Novel Naphthyl-Appended Macrocyclic Ligand, Including the Crystal and Molecular Structure of the First Copper(I)-eta2-Naphthyl Complex" W. S. Striejewske and R. R. Conry* Chem. Commun., 1998, 555-556.

Colby Honors Senior Theses Advised:

Eric Bergh "Towards The Synthesis of Biomimetic Tungsten Complexes" 5/07.

John Cole, III "The Synthesis of Biomimetic Tungsten and Molybdenum Complexes" 5/05.

Alexis Bond "The Synthesis of a New Tetradentate Sulfur Ligand for Bioinorganic Model Complexes" 5/03.

Paul Lee "Investigations of Intramolecular Copper(I)-Arene Interactions Using a NS2-Macrocyclic Ligand with Different Pendant Aryl Arms" 5/02.

Jonathan Natkin "A Probe of Nitrogen- and Sulfur-Ligated Copper Complexes as Aziridination Catalysts" 5/01.

National Presentations Given by Colby Students Under my Direction:

C. P. Owens, M. S. Kim, and R. R. Conry* Copper(I)-Arene Interactions in the Solid State and in Solution Using an NS2-Cyclodecane Ligand with Different Pendant Aryl Groups 3/07, American Chemical Society National Meeting, Chicago, IL

R. R. Conry,* J. Hayward, and L. Olenick Synthesis of Biomimetic Complexes for Molydenum and Nickel Enzymes 3/04, American Chemical Society National Meeting, Anaheim, CA

A. A. Bond and R. R. Conry* Toward the Synthesis of Bioinorganic Model Complexes with a New Tetradentate Sulfur Ligand Based on Two Biphenyl Groups 4/02, American Chemical Society National Meeting, Orlando, FL

P. J. Lee, A. A. Tipton, and R. R. Conry* Investigations of Intramolecular Copper(I)-Arene Interactions Using an NS2-Macrocyclic Ligand with Different Pendant Aryl Arms 4/02, American Chemical Society National Meeting, Orlando, FL

External Funding at Colby College:

$50,000American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund (B) Copper(I)-Arene Binding Studies with New Aryl-Appended Macrocyclic Ligands (PI)1/06-8/09
$257,216National Science Foundation MRIAcquisition of a CCD Single Crystal X-ray Diffraction System for a Partnership of Maine Institutions (PI)8/01-12/04
$39,282Research Corporation Cottrell College Science AwardNew Biomimetic Ni, Mo, and W Complexes with Derivatives of the Biphenyl-2,2'-dithiolate Ligand (PI)5/01-4/04
$145,148National Science Foundation MRI Upgrade of a 400-MHz Spectrometer Vital for Chemistry Research and Education (co-PI)8/00-7/01

Picture of Research Group:

Thora Maltais, Kate Sherry, Katie Littleton, Nichole Schmidt (left to right)

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