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Bren Group

Principal Investigator


Prof. Kara L. Bren


Graduate Students & Postdocs


Banu Kandemir


Research: I am investigating the catalytic mechanism of a macrocyclic iron complex using electrochemical methods.  My goal is to synthesize derivatives of the complex as well as to couple electrochemistry with spectroscopy to get a clear picture of the reaction and deactivation pathways. 


Saikat Chakraborty


Research: Drawing on techniques from molecular biology and utilizing inorganic and physical chemistry, my research is intended to engineer proteins, predominantly cytochromes, for applications in photocatalytic hydrogen generation.


Jennifer Le


Research: I am currently working on a fully synthetic mini-protein catalyst for hydrogen generation using electrocatalysis and photocatalysis. Other projects also include protein engineering of bacterial and mitochondrial cytochromes c


Jose Alvarez-Hernandez


Research: My current research focusses on characterizing the electrochemical Hydrogen Evolution Reaction (HER) catalyzed by cobalt-peptides CoMP11-Ac and CoGGH. Cyclic Voltammetry is the cornerstone of my work to evaluate electrocatalysis. Mechanism elucidation will require me to run freeze-quench experiments to trap intermediates that can be characterized by spectroscopic techniques such as rRaman, NMR, and MCD. Outside of lab, I’m the president of the Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) at the UR. I take care of our fish tank (check out our pictures), play volleyball, bike, and dream of a better Cuba.


Jesse Stroka


Research: Working at the interface of inorganic and biological chemistry, I am currently investigating electrocatalytic activation of small molecules by bio-inspired metallopeptide catalysts. These investigations include an emphasis on obtaining insight on reaction mechanisms, elucidation of catalytically relevant species, and optimization of conditions using preliminary electroanalytical techniques with plans of adding spectroscopic approaches in the future.


Emily Edwards


Research: My current research focuses on using a simple biomolecule, cobalt microperoxidase-11, in systems for light-driven hydrogen generation. Cobalt MP11 is a water-soluble cobalt porphyrin-peptide derived from the heme peptide of horse heart cytochrome c. I am currently working to characterize an aqueous system using Co-MP11 as a catalyst, [Ru(bpy)3]2+ as a charge transfer chromophore, and ascorbic acid as a sacrificial electron donor. The need to drastically reduce carbon emissions and move to clean renewable energy sources is urgent - climate change has been dubbed as one of the biggest global health threats of the 21st century. It is imperative that there is a good understanding of how to build clean energy solar harvesting systems that maximize their potential. Consequently, an ongoing goal of research is to optimize the system while developing a more detailed understanding of the mechanisms at work.


Jiwon Han


Research: My current research is focusing on metallopeptide catalysts for electrocatalytic hydrogen generation.


Undergraduate Students



Jana Jelusic


Research: My research focuses on the characterization of the catalytic complex formation in the photocatalytic hydrogen production system. Concentrating on electrochemical methods, I am exploring the activity of the catalytic complex in different conditions. Purification and subsequent employment of the catalytic complex in the photochemical system might contribute to a better understanding of the activity of catalytic species for H2 generation.



Andrew Sopchak




Noelle Peluso