Professor Alan Goldman
Winner: 2020 Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Award
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
For deep and scholarly insight into the mechanisms of organometallic reactions and the design of organometallic catalysts.
Celebrate Professor Alan Goldman
Professor Goldman practices science that is fundamental but related to large challenges facing society, particularly the goal of transitioning to a prosperous environmentally sustainable economy – including, for example, the development of carbon-neutral systems for transportation fuels and fertilizers.Read full biography
Professor Alan Goldman received his BA degree in 1980 from Columbia University where he did research with Professor Walter Klemperer on the synthesis and characterization of mixed-metal polyoxoanions. He received his PhD in 1985, also from Columbia University, where under the advisorship of Professor David Tyler he conducted research focused on organometallic photochemistry and the chemistry of odd-electron, particularly 19-valence-electron, organometallic species. From 1985 to 1987, Professor Goldman studied the reactivity of transition metal polyhydrides in the laboratory of Professor Jack Halpern.
He joined the faculty of Rutgers University in 1987 and rose through the ranks to become Distinguished Professor in 2005.
Professor Goldman’s research is centred on the development of organometallic catalysts based upon an in-depth understanding of mechanism and reactivity. In 1990 he reported the development and the unanticipated mechanism of a novel photochemical system for alkane dehydrogenation. Based on that work, his group then developed the first highly efficient thermochemical catalysts for alkane transfer-dehydrogenation.
Goldman and theorist colleagues Karsten Krogh-Jespersen and Faraj Hasanayn played a leading role in developing approaches to the development of organometallic catalysts and the elucidation of reaction mechanisms that integrated computation with experiment.
Goldman and collaborators have developed systems in which alkane dehydrogenation catalysts act in tandem with catalysts for secondary reactions, including, with Maurice Brookhart, systems for alkane metathesis. The lab has studied the making and breaking of carbon-heteroatom bonds by organometallic catalysts and has recently turned their attention to nitrogen fixation.
Awards received by Professor Goldman include the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Fellowship, the ACS Catalysis Lectureship Award for the Advancement of Catalytic Science, and the ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry.
How did you first become interested in chemistry?
As soon as I got into a research lab and experienced the thrill of trying to discover something that no one before me had ever known or done.
Who or what has inspired you?
My postdoctoral adviser, Jack Halpern.
What motivates you?
Working with students and collaborators to solve interesting scientific problems. It’s still almost hard to believe I am lucky enough to get paid to do that.
What is something you are looking forward to?
Finishing up paperwork so that I can do science.
What is an exciting scientific development on the horizon?
A world where energy is widely cheap and clean.
Why do you think teamwork is important in science?
Because virtually all major scientific developments in the past 80 years have been the result of team efforts, ranging from mentor plus mentee to a very large team, but with the vast majority somewhere in between these extremes.
Why do you think international collaboration is important in science?
Within a single community perspectives and assumptions can become entrenched. When they clash with the ideas of outside communities, they are challenged, they cross-pollinate, the fittest survive and they evolve.
Why do you think interdisciplinary research and collaboration is important in science?
Society is not faced with problems that were designed, like course exam questions, to be solved based on the ideas of a single discipline.
What is your favourite element?
Hydrogen. I love simplicity.