2016 Arduengo Lecture: Douglas Stephan


FLP Chemistry: New Avenues in Synthesis and Catalysis
12:45 PM, Thursday, April 14, 2016
1093 Shelby Hall
(Technical Lecture)

Catalysis: Chemistry Changing Your Life and Mine!
3:30 PM, Friday, April 15, 2016
1093 Shelby Hall
(General Interest Lecture)
Reception to follow in the Shelby Rotunda


Douglas W. Stephan is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Toronto. Doug was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1953, and he obtained his B.Sc. in Chemistry from McMaster University in 1976. Later that year, Doug moved to London, Ontario to conduct graduate research as an NSERC Postgraduate Scholar under the direction of Nicholas Payne at the University of Western Ontario. There Doug investigated chiral phosphines and chiral platinum and rhodium complexes. After earning his Ph.D. in 1980, Doug worked as a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow with Professor R. H. Holm at Harvard (1980-82) where he determined the structures and explored metal ion exchange reactions of several iron-sulfur clusters. Professor Stephan began his independent research career at the University of Windsor in 1982, where he rose through the ranks to become Professor (1992-2002), then Distinguished University Professor (2002-2007) and Department Head (2003-2006). In 2008, Doug accepted the position of Professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of Toronto.

Professor Stephan’s early contributions involved the synthesis, characterization, and reactivity studies of many novel homo- and heterobimetallic complexes. He was the first to characterize a Ti—Sn bond, mononuclear titanium phosphide complexes, and mononuclear early metal phosphinidine complexes. In addition, Doug prepared and characterized rare octahedral Ni(II) thiolates as well as binuclear Cu(II) complexes that served as models for biologically relevant Cu(II) ligands. His pioneering efforts in the mid and late 1990s revealed new methods to furnish metallo- and main group phosphacycles. These approaches offered safer, simpler, and more efficient preparations than conventional approaches of the time. During these studies, Professor Stephan prepared and characterized the first dimetallaphosphacumulene and unprecedented phosphametallacyclobutenes. Intriguingly, he also reported the synthesis of a 16-membered ring of contiguous P—P bonds. Capitalizing on his expertise with phosphinimides and phosphinimines, Doug devised new ligands that afforded non-metallocene catalysts for C—H activation and olefin polymerization reactions. Notably, his zirconium-phosphinimide complexes were the first non-cyclopentadienyl, single-site catalysts that could compete with metallocenes in Ziegler-Natta-type alkene polymerizations under commercially relevant conditions.

In 2006, Doug reported one of the seminal chemistry discoveries of the new century—the first metal-free system, a phosphinoborane, to reversibly activate H2. This finding dispelled the longstanding tenet that transition metals are required to reversibly activate H2 and launched a flourishing field of chemistry research. The following year, Doug coined the now familiar term “frustrated Lewis pair (FLP)” chemistry in describing his methods for tuning the properties of his reagents. His subsequent studies of novel FLP reagents highlighted their applications in catalytic hydrogenation reactions of disparate unsaturated organic functional groups; hydroaminations of alkynes; the capture and in some cases reduction of CO2, N2O, SO2, and NO; hydrodefluorinations; and C—C bond forming reactions. Many of these firsts garnered international acclaim. Professor Stephan is a founding father of FLP chemistry, and through his constant innovation, he remains the preeminent investigator in the field among many important contributors worldwide.

Professor Stephan has been widely honored for his research contributions and creativity. He is the recipient of the Alcan Award (2001); the Humboldt Senior Research Award (2002-2003 and a re-invitation in 2011); the NSERC Synergy Award with NOVA Chemicals (2003); the Ciapetta Lectureship Award (2004); the Ludwig Mond Award (2012); the Henry Marshall Tory Medal (2013); the Chemical Institute of Canada Medal (2014); the Canadian Green Chemistry and Engineering Award (2014); and the Applied Catalysis Award (2014). In 1994, Doug was named Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada and in 2005 Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. That same year, he earned the title of Canada Research Chair at the University of Windsor, and three years later, Canada Research Chair in Catalysis and New Materials at the University of Toronto. In 2010, Professor Stephan was named Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) and in 2013 Fellow of the Royal Society (London, UK). He is currently the Einstein Visiting Fellow at TU Berlin (2016-2019). Doug is Chair of the Editorial Board of Chemical Society Reviews, and he has served as an Associate Editor of that journal. To date, Doug and his students have authored over 400 journal and review articles and over 80 patents. Notably, 13 publications have been cited over 200 times and 29 have been cited over 100 times—consequently, Professor Stephan was named a 2014 and a 2015 Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher. He was also recently ennobled as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds. Aside from continuous chemistry innovation, Doug enjoys spending time with his wife, Dianne, and his children, David and Kathryn, as well as long distance running and playing golf.