A catalyst for success

28th April 2014

News, Student news

A thesis by Wadham Chemistry DPhil student Rob Turbervill has been praised as exceptional by Oxford academics.

  • DPhil student Rob Turbervill

The thesis explores methods of using small, negatively charged clusters of phosphorus atoms to construct new molecules.

Said Rob: "My research has pioneered the use of anionic phosphorus and arsenic clusters as building blocks for the synthesis of unusual variants of organic molecules. In particular, I have carried out extensive work on the synthesis of phosphorus-containing analogues of the cyclopentadienyl anion, a ligand that is widely used in industrial metal catalysis.”

Entitled Solution Reactivity Studies of Group 15 Zintl Anions Towards Unsaturated Substrates, Rob admits the thesis title is “a bit of a mouthful” and the content is not easy to understand for those without a scientific background.

His work is an extension of his fourth year undergraduate study with Jose Goicoechea (LMH) who became his supervisor for his doctoral studies.

Rob explained: “Research in the Goicoechea Group is focused on the chemistry of highly reductive main-group clusters and organometallic complexes. We are particularly interested in exploratory chemical synthesis with the aim of synthesising new and exciting compounds and solids.”

Rob admits that his research is at a very early stage but he is delighted to have such positive feedback: “My supervisor has been fantastic and I have worked alongside some excellent people to get to this stage.” He has had six peer reviewed publications resulting from his thesis.

An undergraduate student at Magdalen College, Rob joined Wadham to do his DPhil in Inorganic Chemistry in 2010. Before Oxford he attended Nailsea School near Bristol. “I was very lucky at my school because I had an excellent chemistry teacher who encouraged me to apply to Oxford. I chose Wadham for my DPhil because I knew people here and it is close to the science area, has cheap and nice graduate accommodation and it is generous with grants,” he said.

Currently working with Jose Goicoechea in a six month post-doctoral position funded by the EPSRC Doctoral prize, Rob is planning a move to London in September to work in finance.

Mark Thompson, Tutor for Graduates at Wadham commented: “I'd like to offer my congratulations to Rob on his achievement in producing and defending a DPhil thesis praised by his examiners as ‘truly outstanding’ and by the MPLS division as ‘exceptional’.”

Publications by Rob Turbervill

• “Studies on the Reactivity of Group 15 Zintl Ions with Carbodiimides: Synthesis and Characterization of a Heptaphosphaguanidine Dianion” Turbervill, R. S. P.; Goicoechea, J. M. Chem. Commun. 2012, 48, 470–1472.

• “Hydrophosphination of Carbodiimides Using Protic Heptaphosphide Cages: A Unique Effect of the Bimodal Activity of Protonated Group 15 Zintl Ions” Turbervill, R. S. P.; Goicoechea, J. M. Organometallics 2012, 31, 2452–2462.

• “Synthesis of 1,2,3-Tripnictolide Anions by Reaction of Group 15 Zintl ions with Acetylene. Isolation of [E3C2H2] (E = P, As) and Preliminary Reactivity Studies” Turbervill, R. S. P.; Goicoechea, J. M. Chem. Commun. 2012, 48, 6100–6102.

• “Synthesis and Characterization of Free and Coordinated 1,2,3-Tripnictolide Anions” Turbervill, R. S. P.; Jupp, A. R.; McCullough, P. S. B.; Ergöçmen, D.; Goicoechea, J. M. Organometallics 2013, 32, 2234–2244.

• “An Asymmetrically Derivatized 1,2,3-Triphospholide: Synthesis and Reactivity of the 4-(2´-Pyridyl)-1,2,3-triphospholide Anion” Turbervill, R. S. P.; Goicoechea, J. M. Inorg. Chem. 2013, 52, 5527–5534.

• “Hydropnictination Reactions of Carbodiimides and Isocyanates with Protonated Heptaphosphide and Heptaarsenide Zintl Ions” Turbervill, R. S. P.; Goicoechea, J. M. Eur. J. Inorg. Chem. 2014, 2014, 1660–1668.

• “Transition Metal Complexes of Anionic N-Heterocyclic Dicarbene Ligands”. Musgrave, R. A.; Turbervill, R. S. P.; Irwin, M.; Goicoechea, J. M. Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. 2012, 51, 10832–10835. 279

• “Group 12 Metal Complexes of N-Heterocyclic Ditopic Carbanionic Carbenes”. Waters, J. B.; Turbervill, R. S. P.; Goicoechea, J. M. Organometallics 2013, 32, 5190–5200.

• “‘Classical’ and ‘Abnormal’ Bonding in Tin (II) N-Heterocyclic Carbene Complexes”. Turbervill, R. S. P.; Goicoechea, J. M. Aus. J. Chem. 2013, 66, 1131–1137.

• “Iron(II) Complexes of Ditopic Carbanionic Carbenes”. Musgrave, R. A.; Turbervill, R. S. P.; Irwin, M.; Herchel, R.; Goicoechea, J. M. Dalton Trans. 2014, 43, 4335–4344.