School of Physical and Chemical Sciences Te Kura Matū Seminar Series

Applying Concepts from Nature for the design of Catalysts and Smart Chemical Networks


Dr Jack Chen, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry


Auckland University of Technology

Time & Place

Wed, 10 Apr 2019 12:00:00 NZST in Room 701, West Building

All are welcome


Catalysts are employed in some 90% of industrial chemical processes, giving us the medicine, fuel, and plastics that we have around us. And yet, synthetic catalysts do not come close to competing with the efficiency of nature’s enzymes. One reason is that nature’s enzymes utilise a property called cooperativity, where several catalytic groups work together in close proximity to produce astonishing accelerations in reaction rate.

Chen, Jack figure_20190410

In this talk, I will discuss how cooperativity can be achieved in synthetic systems to produce more efficient catalysts.1 This has implications on greener chemical processes and a more sustainable economy. I will discuss how the concept of cooperativity can be exploited to create catalytic systems where catalytic activity can be switched on and off using external triggers such as light or an electrical potential.2,3 Advancement in this area has implications on the next generation of smart catalysts and intelligent chemical systems.


[1]        P. Solís Muñana, G. Ragazzon, J. Dupont, C. Z.‐J. Ren, L. J. Prins*, Jack L.‐Y. Chen*. Substrate‐Induced Self‐Assembly of Cooperative Catalysts. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 16469-16474.

[2]        Jack L.-Y. Chen, S. Maiti, I. Fortunati, C. Ferrante, L. J. Prins. Chem. Eur. J. 2017, 23, 11549.

[3]        F. della Sala, Jack L.-Y. Chen, S. Ranallo, D. Badocco, P. Pastore, F. Ricci, L. J. Prins. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2016, 55, 10737.


My PhD was conducted at the University of Auckland with Prof. Margaret Brimble, working on the synthesis of spirastrellolide B, a potent protein phosphatase inhibitor with potential anti-cancer properties. I then took up a Postdoctoral Fellow appointment in the same group for 18 months, where I was involved in a range of projects including the total synthesis of bioactive molecules from traditional Chinese medicines and a medicinal chemistry project to discover novel telomerase inhibitors. In 2011 I moved to Bristol, UK, for 3 years where I worked with Prof. Varinder Aggarwal developing synthetic methodology involving a novel form of activated allylboron reagents. In 2014 I took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship with Prof. Leonard Prins in Padova, Italy, where I studied the use of gold nanoparticle-based supramolecular systems for chiral catalysis. In 2016, I moved from Italy to take up my current position in the School of Applied Sciences at AUT. Read more here.