Undergraduate research projects

Prof. Noam Adir
nadir@technion.ac.il Floor 4, 452

Research Project 1:

Direct transformation of solar energy using natural photosynthesis

Bacteria, algae and plants have transformed solar energy into chemical energy for over 3 Gyr, without the requirement of polluting organic/inorganic synthesis or rare and expensive metals. We have recently shown that we can mutate a natural photosystem and obtain material that will support the production of a current of electrons (Larom et al. PNAS 2010). We are now expanding our research to incorporate our system into a photochemical cell, and we have transferred the mutation to plants. However it is not impossible that there are other organisms that could be used directly – without needing mutagenesis. In the project, the student will isolate photosynthetic membranes from plants, algae and bacteria, measure their natural electron flow and see whether the electron flow can be used in our electrochemical cell. The student will be exposed to methods in biochemistry, biophysics and electrochemistry.


Research Project 2:

Crystallization and structure determination of proteins by X-ray Crystallography

Proteins are the most varied of all of life’s macromolecules. In essence they are nano-machines, with moving parts, catalytic centers, energy input and output mechanisms, etc. This is achieved by obtaining a unique three-dimensional structure due to the folding of a linear sequence of amino acids, coupled with the specific binding of additional components: metal ions, small organic molecules, chromophores, co-factors, water, etc. Crystallographic visualization of the structures of proteins can provide us with a clear picture of the relative positions of all of the atoms in the protein and the associated molecules and decipher the roles of all components. This information is critical for understanding the basic chemical mechanics of life as well as more applicative areas of research such as drug design and improvement of enzyme catalysis. In our lab we perform all of the above tasks: we isolate proteins from a variety of sources, highly purify them, grow three dimensional crystals and solve and analyze their 3-D structures. In the project the student will join ongoing research in the lab, and perform one or more of the tasks required to obtain such a structure. The student will use biochemistry, biophysics, diffraction physics, spectroscopy, sophisticated computer software for analysis and visualization and other methods.

Prof. Timor Baasov
chtimor@technion.ac.il Floor 6, 612

Research Project 1:

Towards Catalytic Antibiotics: Rational Design, Synthesis and Evaluation

The emergence of multidrug-resistant pathogens has triggered an on-going intensive search for novel antibiotics. While our lab has a long-standing experience in the development of new antibiotics, the proposed research focuses on the development of catalytic antibiotics as a new paradigm in antibiotics research. In its initial step, the project aims to chemically modify the existing antibacterial drugs to act on their targets in a catalytic manner. The possible benefits include: i) activity at lower dosages and subsequent elimination of side effects, ii) activity against drug-resistant bacteria, and iii) reduced potential for generating new resistance. The main motivation of this project is that no such drugs are currently available and, if successful, this new paradigm will pave a way to new era in antibiotics development. Students are performing the rational design (computer-assisted modelling), synthesis and biological characterization of synthetic molecules for their antibacterial activity, including catalytic activity on their target-bacterial ribosome and/or ribosomal particles.


Research Project 2:

To fix damaged genes by small molecules: towards development of new drugs for the treatment of genetic diseases.

A large number of human genetic diseases result from specific mutations called “nonsense mutations”. These mutations in DNA cause the lack of subsequent specific proteins and as consequence represent underline cause of diseases including Cystic Fibrosis, Rett Syndrome and Hurler syndrome and more. Recently we have developed a series of small organic compounds that interfere with translation process in mammalian ribosome and allow production of full-length functional proteins from the mutant genes. The efficiency of our molecules has been demonstrated both in vitro and in vivo models of a series of genetic diseases including cancer. Continuing this research, the specific aims include: (a) Rational Design and Synthesis of Novel Derivatives with Improved Efficacy; (b) Structure-Activity-Toxicity Relationship Studies on the Synthesized Compounds; (c) Characterizing the Lead Compounds by using a series of biological tests, including 3D Crystal Structure Determination with Human rRNA A-Site Oligonucleotide Models. Students are performing the rational design (computer-assisted modelling), synthesis and biological characterization of synthetic molecules for their structure-activity-toxicity relationship study.


Research Project 3:

Development of new antibiotics that deley resistance development by pathogenic bacteria.

To tackle the problem of resistance to antibiotics, several different strategies are used, but almost all approaches still suffer from the new resistance that bacteria develop soon after the new drug is introduced in the market. To overcome this problem, we recently used a strategy of hybrid drugs – two different antibiotics that kill bacteria with different mechanisms of action, are covalently connected to each other. We demonstrated that such hybrid molecules exhibit dual mode of action, can compromise with existing resistance mechanisms of each drug alone and also largely delay the development of new resistance by bacteria. The main objective of this research is to develop novel hybrid structures and establish the concept of hybrid-antibiotics as a new concept that can revive old antibiotics with newer and highly productive usage. Students are performing the rational design (computer-assisted modelling), synthesis and biological characterization of synthetic molecules including antibacterial activity tests and the ability for resistance development.

Prof. Mark Gandelman
chmark@technion.ac.il Floor 5, 555

Research Project 1:

Development of Smart Metal-Based Catalysts for the Important and Challenging Organic Transformations

Metal-based catalysis is among the most promising and exciting disciplines in chemistry. It allows unique and selective pathways for conversion of simple compounds to complex materials with a minimal waste production and input of energy. Design of new metal-ligand systems (metal-based catalysts) for the improvement of useful and important organic methodologies as well as development of novel challenging catalytic transformations that have no solution yet represents a high-impact target. Development of new environmentally benign chemical transformations as well as alternative energy related processes are major representative goals in catalysis. The progress in the field undoubtedly relies on the development of new clever ligands that impose unique steric and electronic properties to the metal center.

Recently we demonstrated, for the first time, that divalent nitrogen cations, so-called nitrenium ions, can serve as ligands for transition metals (for details, see: Nature Chem., 2011, 3, 525). This discovery opened a door to a new type of ligands and corresponding metal complexes. We have found that these metal-based systems demonstrate highly


interesting chemical properties. Synthesis of new ligands, metal complexes, their characterization and application to challenging catalysis will be studied in the suggested research project.

Students will learn modern organic and inorganic synthesis, including work with air-sensitive materials, characterization and analytical techniques (NMR, IR, GC, HPLC, X-ray) and art of catalysis.


Research Project 2:

Utilization of Halogen Bonding in Asymmetric Metal-Free Catalysis

Although the halogen bonding, which is defined as a non-covalent interaction between electrophilic halogen groups (Lewis acids) and Lewis bases, have found many useful applications in the field of crystal engineering, materials science and bioorganic chemistry, its application in catalysis is missing.

We have recently launched an active program for using a halogen bonding in catalysis. While chemists use different types of non-covalent interactions as a basis for substrate activation in catalysis, the well-defined halogen bonding phenomenon is practically unstudied for these purposes. Our initial studies have demonstrated that well-defined halogen bonds can be useful for catalytic activation of substrates with the designed catalysts (similar to the well-established hydrogen bond-based activation). Novel halogen bonded non-covalent assemblies of substrate-catalyst have been fully characterized and quantified, and the structure-catalytic activity relationship elucidated. In this project synthesis of new chiral metal-free catalysts, that capable to activate substrates via halogen bonding, and their application to catalytic synthesis of important organic chiral materials will be explored.

Students will learn modern organic synthesis, including work with air-sensitive and chiral materials, characterization and analytical techniques (NMR, IR, GC, HPLC, X-ray) and art of catalysis.

Prof. Charles E. Diesendruck
charles@technion.ac.il Floor 3, 316

Research Project 1:

Does polymer architecture influence mechanical stability?

When polymers are mechanically stressed, chemical reactions such as covalent bond scission may occur. In this project, we will study how the architecture of the polymer (linear, cyclic, internally crosslinked etc) affects the kinetics of the bond scission reactions. The work involves synthesis of polymers in different architectures, measurement of the properties of the polymer chains (Mw, size, shape etc), and mechanical stressing of the polymers in solution using sonochemistry.

Prof. Alon Hoffman
choffman@technion.ac.il Floor 3, 354

Research Project 1:

Thermionic electron emission form nano-diamond films

In this project we will investigate the effect of electron emission form diamond surfaces induced by just heating the diamond.   The effect of surface chemistry, film thickness, grain size and substrate material on the electron emission properties will be investigated. First the student will learn how to grow diamond films by chemical vapour deposition, then the thermal induced electron emission experiments will be carried out in a specially designed ultra high vacuum chamber. Within this chamber we will carry out spectroscopic measurements to determine the chemical composition, chemical bonding and electronic properties of the diamond d film surfaces as a function of different preparation conditions.


Research Project 2:

Plasma nitradation of diamond surfaces for the formation of a conductive surfa ce layer

Nitrogen impurities within a diamond matrix results in doping of the diamond electronic structure with deep (1.5eV ) donors.   Thus nitrogen doping of diamond is expected to have in a strong influence on any process in which electron mobility takes place. In this project we will investigate the influence of nitrogen plasma nitridation of diamond surfaces on its electron emission properties. The electron emission processes that will be investigated are: photo induced, electron induced and thermal induced electron emission. In addition the chemical composition and bonding of the nitrogen plasma nitride surfaces will be examined in-situ.


Research Project 3:

Interaction of hydrogen and nitrogen with diamond surfaces investigated by surface vibrational-electron spectroscopy

The composition and bonding of hydrogen and nitrogen co-adsorbed on diamond surfaces will be investigated by preparing these surfaces in-situ in an ultra high vacuum chamber equipped with molecular beam, thermal activated molecular source and plasma source. The chemical composition of the hydrogenated and nitride surfaces will be determined by x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and high resolution electron energy loss spectroscopy.

Prof. Efrat Lifshitz
ssefrat@technion.ac.il Floor 2, 212

Research Project 1:

Synthesis and optical characterization of nanostructures with applications in solar energy light source devices

The laboratory focus on the synthesis and characterization of  semiconductor and metal nanocrystals (NCs).  The synthesis includes the use of colloidal chemistry, allowing control on the shape, size and chemical composition.  More specific heterostructures of NCs are preferred in recent years, render the option to engineer the physical properties, to a special need.  For example, creation of multiple carriers with a benefit for solar energy and gain device applications, or flourescence properties with a gaint intensity, as biological labeling.  Research work in the laboratory includes a thorough investigation of the electronic and optical properties of the NCs, utilizing unique spectroscopic tools, including a detection of a single NC, magneto-optical measurements (combining magnetic resonance and optics) and combination of spectrosocopy and microscopy.  A few applied research projects  (solar cells, light sources) are currently active in the laboratory”.

Prof. Ilan Marek
chilanm@technion.ac.il Floor 5, 517

Research Project 1:

New approach to stereodefined enolate species

Modern organic synthesis requires efficient methodologies leading to fast access of complex molecular structures form simple starting materials. Novel synthetic methods developed in our research group are based on the principle of step economy allowing, for instance, stereocontrolled one-pot synthesis of aldol adducts bearing all-carbon quaternary stereocenters. We are proposing to develop this strategy to relevant functionalized key-fragments

Research Project 2:

Selective metal mediated carbon–carbon bond cleavage of strained compounds

The activation (cleavage) of carbon-carbon bonds mediated by transition metal complexes is one of the most challenging reactions in light of the efficient utilization of hydrocarbons. In this context, we are engaged in the elucidation of a very intriguing reaction where an organometallic species “walk” along carbon unsaturations to finally activate a carbon-carbon bond. This “magic” transformation could be used to prepare synthetically challenging all-carbon quaternary stereocenters in acyclic system.


Research Project 3:

New approach to the creation of challenging all-carbon quaternary stereocenters

The selective preparation of all-carbon quaternary stereocenters remains one of the most challenging tasks in modern organic chemistry. We recently described a powerful answer to this problem through a new sequence of carbometalation/oxidation of strained rings. By using this selective organometallic reaction, we could create controlled quaternary stereocenters possessing functional groups such as aldehydes which open doors for further developments.