Catalysis for a brighter industry and a greener future

Faculty of Science
Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences
Students by the Rideau canal with STEM complex in the background
Catalysts play an integral role in the modern manufacturing industry. They are used in numerous processes, such as plastic production, ammonia synthesis, petroleum refining and hydrogenation. It is therefore no surprise that catalyst development is a major area of focus for many chemists.

Matthew Elsby is a PhD graduate who was supervised by Professor Tom Baker. The core of his research was to investigate the reactivity of bifunctional SNS (sulfur, nitrogen, sulfur) ligands with first row transition metals with the ultimate goal of synthesizing new catalysts. The catalysis community is greatly interested in using first row metals due to their high natural abundance and corresponding affordability. However, many state-of-the-art catalysts rely on phosphine-based ligands that are often challenging and expensive to make. Matthew was particularly interested in utilizing sulfur-based ligands with first row metals and investigating the fundamental changes in reaction pathways associated with changing ligand environments. He is hoping that his research motivates other groups to place a greater emphasis on sustainable ligands so they find more application in industrial processes.

Matthew Elsby

In recognition of his cutting-edge catalysis research, Matthew was selected as the top inorganic chemistry graduate student in Canada by the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CIC) Inorganic Chemistry Division. He was also granted an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship to work with Prof. Nilay Hazari at Yale University, where he is focusing on projects in green and sustainable chemistry. He is currently investigating the fundamental reactivity of CO2 with transition metal hydrides to improve future catalyst designs.

Matthew is grateful for his PhD supervisor, Prof. Baker, who provided him with numerous opportunities throughout his research, including a one-month stay at École normale supérieure de Lyon, France, where he conducted electrochemistry research with Prof. Christophe Bucher. He also recognizes the key role that his MSc supervisor, Professor Sam Johnson (University of Windsor) played in his development.

Outside the lab, Matthew was part of the Chemistry and Biomolecular Graduate Student Association Buddy Program, where senior graduate students get paired with junior students to help them through their first year. He was also a member of the Ottawa Camping Club.

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