Peng Liu Awarded Maximizing Investigators' Research Award Grant from National Institutes of Health

Peng Liu has been awarded a five-year Maximizing Investigators' Research Award (MIRA) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The five-year, $1.8 million grant will support Peng group's research in developing quantum mechanics based computational tools to study organic and organometallic reactions. They study how reactions occur, factors controlling rates and selectivity, and provide theoretical insights to help develop improved catalysts and reagents. 

To develop drugs with specific properties, it is necessary to control catalysts. Liu lab focuses on molecules called alkenes or olefins – hydrocarbons that synthesize compounds important for biomedical research. Among the influences on alkene catalysis are ligands, molecules binding to a central metal atom, and transition metals – ions of elements such as iron in which electrons are sparse in the outermost regions of the atom. Transition metals are effective catalysts because they easily exchange electrons back and forth with other molecules. The possible combinations of ligands, transition metals, and alkenes are vast.

MIRA provides support for the research in an investigator's laboratory that falls within the mission of the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The goal of MIRA is to increase the efficiency of NIGMS funding by providing investigators with greater stability and flexibility, thereby enhancing scientific productivity and the chances for important breakthroughs. The program will also help distribute funding more widely among the nation's highly talented and promising investigators. 

Some part of this article is written by Brian Connelly.

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