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F. Albert Cotton Award In Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry

by Stephen K. Ritter
February 16, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 7

Credit: courtesy of Jaqueline Kiplinger
Jaqueline Kiplinger, a senior scientist and laboratory fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Credit: courtesy of Jaqueline Kiplinger

Sponsored by the F. Albert Cotton Endowment Fund

Actinide organometallic chemistry is a “hot” research area these days, and not just because thorium and uranium are radioactive. Chemists are seeking out new types of fuels for nuclear reactors and methods for treating radioactive waste as they look to help meet future energy demand. But along the way they are discovering that actinide complexes are nice models for studying chemical bonding and pretty good catalysts too. Jaqueline L. Kiplinger, a senior scientist and laboratory fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), has become one of the world’s leading authorities on these subjects.

Some of Kiplinger’s most-cited work involves the synthesis of uranium and thorium ketimide complexes, which have added a new structural motif to actinide chemistry. Her early data on the complexes were suggestive of electronic delocalization throughout the nitrogen-metal-nitrogen core and indicated that the f electrons in organoactinide complexes, in addition to d electrons, might be far more involved in chemical bonding and reactivity than previously thought. Kiplinger’s subsequent work on the compounds and on lanthanide-actinide complexes nailed down the details of f-electron delocalization and multimetallic f-f electronic communication.

In other work, Kiplinger has pioneered the use of copper and gold reagents as one-electron oxidants for actinide compounds, making accessible the chemistry of the surprisingly stable U(V) oxidation state. Kiplinger and her colleagues also designed a photochemical synthesis that established the first-ever evidence for the formation of a terminal uranium-nitrogen triple bond. In addition, they have developed inexpensive, simple, and safe techniques to make thorium and uranium halide starting materials, which have been critical to advancing synthetic and mechanistic actinide chemistry.

“I have reviewed a number of her papers, and I am impressed by their clarity, completeness, care in research design, and solid interpretation of results,” says George G. Stanley, a chemistry professor at Louisiana State University. “The continuing stream of high-quality publications is a true testament to her tenaciousness and love of research. These are characteristics that I remember most about Al Cotton, making Jackie a highly deserving recipient of this award.”

Kiplinger, 47, received a B.S. degree from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, in 1990, and a Ph.D. degree in organometallic fluorocarbon chemistry from the University of Utah in 1996. After conducting postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley, she joined the staff at LANL in 1999.

Among her other honors, Kiplinger is an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Her innovative methods for preparing actinide materials have earned two R&D 100 Awards and two National Nuclear Security Administration Best-in-Class Pollution Prevention Awards. Furthermore, Kiplinger’s mentoring of students and postdocs has been recognized with LANL’s Student Distinguished Mentor Award, STAR Award, and Postdoc Distinguished Mentor Award.

“Kiplinger’s imagination and creativity truly make her a leader in modern synthetic f-element chemistry,” says Bruce E. Bursten, an ACS past-president and chemistry professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “She is a wonderful representative of the curiosity and tenacity of Al Cotton.”

Kiplinger will present her award address before the Division of Inorganic Chemistry.


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