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Colloquium Schedule | Upcoming Events

Femtosecond Electron Diffraction: Making the Molecular Movie

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R. J. Dwayne Miller
Departments of Chemistry and Physics and
The Institute for Optical Sciences
University of Toronto

Abstract: One of the great dream experiments in Science is to directly observe atomic motions during the primary events of Chemistry and Biology - literally watch Chemistry and Biology in action as it happens at the atomic level. Imagine being able to watch atoms fluctuate along a bond and watch the very moment the bond breaks to witness the death of a molecule and its reincarnation as different structures. The timescales involved in such motions are in the femtosecond domain (10-15 seconds) or 1 billionth of a 1 millionth of a second. This is incredibly fast. Until recently it was thought that such experiments could never be realized. Professor Miller will discuss the development of a new kind of camera that has both sufficient shutter speed and sensitivity to capture atomic movies of structural dynamics. The machine built at the University of Toronto was the first to make "Molecular Movies". It uses an extremely "bright" source of electrons to ping off the atoms and report on their motions. This advance has opened up a new kind of microscope to reveal the atomic world to us in motion. We are now at a historical turning point in science comparable to that in Astronomy with the development of the telescope. We don't know what we will find but we do know old concepts will fall by the wayside. Chemistry and Biology will soon be understood at the most fundamental level possible through these new glasses to directly observe atomic motions.


Mirror, Mirror on the Wall - Which Enantiomer to Call?

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V. M. Dong
Department of Chemistry
University of Toronto

Abstract: Every morning before heading out to school, the laboratory, or the office, most of us will take a careful look at our image in the mirror. Like you and your reflection, organic molecules can exist as mirror images of each other. These "left" and "right" hand molecules are called "enantiomers" and they have different biological activity. For example, one molecule can save lives, while its enantiomer acts as a deadly poison! Thus, chemists face an important challenge when making molecules - how do we efficiently and selectively make a molecule in preference to making its mirror image? Professor Dong's talk will introduce the concept of enantiomers, their importance in medicine, and recent developments in enantioselective synthesis from her own laboratory.


From the City to the Forest; Chemistry of the Atmosphere

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J. Murphy
Department of Chemistry
University of Toronto

Atmospheric pollution is a double edged sword. Not only does human activity change the composition of the atmosphere, but changed atmospheric composition seriously influences ecosystems. Professor Murphy will talk about the investigative work she and her research group have done in tracing the sources of manmade pollutants that affect southwestern Ontario, as well as the fate of these chemicals and their influence on downwind forests.


Hormones, Hormones Everywhere . Nary a Drop to Spare

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A. Wheeler
Department of Chemistry
University of Toronto

An improved understanding of the Chemistry is at the heart of many medical advances. For example, better testing methods for hormones in tissue and body fluids, could improve the lives of patients with infertility problems or hormone-sensitive cancers.

Current testing methods involve biopsies (surgeries), need relatively large samples, and take hours of laboratory processing. Professor Wheeler will talk about a miniaturized, integrated method for hormone analysis that is fast, automated and requires 1/1000th of the conventional sample size, that he and his research group have developed. The new method relies on digital microfluidics, a technique in which sample and reagent droplets are moved across an open surface by applying electrical potentials to an array of electrodes. In essence, this technique constitutes 'a lab on a chip'.