R-MC Thoburn Group

Welcome to Dr. John Thoburn's Website

It is my hope that interested parties will find useful information regarding organic chemistry on this site.

Students of organic and physical chemistry will find course materials such as assignments, class notes, extra problems, spectroscopy tables, and old exams.

Undergraduates interested in research opportunities will find project descriptions, pictures, and a list of publications. If you would like to find what you can do with a chemistry degree follow the link to former students.


The Thoburn Group - Research

Our group is interested in studying the dynamics of organic molecules. A general overview of research projects underway in our laboratory is provided here.

Supramolecular Chemistry

The Thoburn research group has recently entered the arena of Supramolecular Chemistry. In collaboration with Jonathan Nitschke at Cambridge University, we have begun a project studying the properties of a self-assembled cubic M8L6 metallocomplex.

We are investigating the mechanism of encapsulation of coronene guest by the cubic cages.

We are also looking at the dynamics of guest motion within the cages. We are investigating the chiral recognition properties of the cube since the cage itself has 8 chiral centers (one at each corner). We anticipate the cube would have interesting magnetic properties when certain guests are encapsulated.

Development of Chiroptical Switches for Information Storage

Development of materials for high-density informaton storage and for miniaturization of swithcing devices is one of the major challanges in science and engineering.

Organic molecules are attractive targets for these new materials because they are small, easily manufactured, and endowed with unique properties such as chirality ("handedness") and robust conformational dynamics not found in the typical semiconductor technology.

We are pursuing the design of one such family of molecules, namely Chiropticenes, which inverts its handedness with each change in conformational state. This feature allows non-destructive read-out of the binary state, "0" or "1".

Quantum Tunneling & Isotope Effects

Quantum mechanical "tunneling" of an atom through a chemical barrier is an intriguing yet presumably widespread feature of chemical reactions involving light atoms such as hydrogen.

Substitution of stable, heavy isotopes in a reaction can help elucidate whether molecules cross over the chemical barrier, tunnel under it, or both. For example, substitution of deuterium for hydrogen in the [1,5] hydrogen shift of 1,3-pentadiene should slow the reaction because heavier masses have smaller de Broglie wavelengths and thus penetrate barriers with greater difficulty. Since heavy isotopes also reduce the zero-point vibrational energy, the classical barrier is effectively increased as well. Since both the classical and quantum effects work in the same direction, disentangling their relative contributions can be challenging.

We have embarked upon a computational journey to estimate contributions of both effects.

News:

Meet the Thoburn Group:

Check out the news and contributions of the many student researchers who have participated in the research program. This is also a good place to learn about student outcomes after graduation.

I'm always looking for independent, resourceful students interested in pursuing research projects in my lab.


The Lab

The Chemistry Department at Randolph-Macon college includes equipment for spectroscopy, chromatography, and materials characterization. See more of the equipment we use on the R-MC Chemistry page.

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