Green Chemistry at the University of Virginia

Professor Chruma is one of a few professors at the University of Virginia who incorporates the tenants of green chemistry into their teaching.

Chruma became interested in the field of green chemistry early in his career at the University of Virginia (UVA). He works with biomimetic synthesis in his research – developing enzymatic processes using the same underlying technique as seen in nature. Early on, he incorporated this technique into his synthesis and continues to do so now with palladium catalysis being the main focus of his research.

From his earlier work on peptide synthesis, he had a particular functional group that he was interested in, so he proposed a new approach to synthesizing it – inspired by biomimicry. It involves the loss of carbon dioxide to generate a highly reactive nucleophile, a growing trend in palladium catalysis. As a result of his biomimetic catalysis, toxic metal waste is removed. Chruma presented his research at a Gordon Research Conference.  Next on his agenda is to make the palladium heterogenous in order to isolate and recover it.

Aside from his own research, Chruma teaches organic chemistry lab to undergraduates. Teaching green chemistry lab experiments allows students and teachers to innovate together. To refine his labs, Chruma enlisted his students to make them greener and more efficient. In teaching the lab described above, Chruma realized there were inefficiencies – he wanted to make it safer and to reduce waste. Thanks to UVA’s self-governing nature, he let the students take charge. Chruma set up a class that introduced students to the principles of green chemistry. He showed them how to do the labs, then broke the students into two teams to do a waste and atom economy analysis of each step. The teams had to identify 3-6 areas of concern that were easy to address and which would enhance learning experience. They documented every step of the path.

 Churma’s future plans are uncertain at the moment, but he plans to take his “pro-green agenda” with him.