Dr. Abby R. O’Connor
During her post-doctoral position, O’Connor also developed a highly successful outreach program that highlights the role of chemists in solving the current energy crisis and plans to bring similar programs to TCNJ.
Research Interest- Research interests in the O’Connor group are focused on the development of more energy efficient and sustainable means to produce our supply of fuels and chemicals. A possible strategy we are interested in is finding new homogenous transition metal complexes for different catalytic applications. In particular, my motivation is to find new ways to stabilize highly reactive intermediates that form during catalysis using hemilabile groups. A hemilabile ligand has the ability to coordinate weakly to a metal to aid in stabilization but can readily decoordinate from the metal to generate open sites for substrates to bind for catalysis. There are two major areas of interest in my group: 1). Development of less expensive homogenous hydrogenation catalysts using nickel complexes containing hemilabile phosphonate groups, 2). Development of new nickel and palladium catalysts containing hemilabile arene moieties for olefin oligomerization and polymerization. Students in my group work in my different areas including synthesis and purification of organic compounds, synthesis and characterization of organometallics, and reactivity studies of the metal complexes. We also heavily rely on multi-nuclear NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography to characterize the complexes that are made.
Teaching Interests- Teaching the next generation of students the value of chemistry is the key to solving the challenges that are facing the world. At TCNJ, I have made it my mission to promote the idea of Green Chemistry and more sustainable chemical practices in my lectures and labs at all levels. Basic principles of chemistry surround us each day and topics learned in the classroom can be applied to chemistry occurring around us in our daily lives and to problems of global significance. My teaching interests range across the curriculum from general chemistry and organic chemistry to inorganic chemistry. I am also interested in problem based learning and implementing new pedagogy to enhance the experiences for students in the classroom. During the past two years, I have taught a course on Organometallic Chemistry, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and in the chemistry department seminar sequence. I also mentor students in the research lab and am interested in different outreach activities.