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Karen J. Brewer


Inorganic Chemistry

Office: 1105 Hahn Hall South
Phone: 540-231-6579
Fax: 540-231-3255
Group Website:

BS Wofford College, 1983
PhD Clemson University, 1987
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California Berkeley, 1987-1988
Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Washington State University, 1988-1992
Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Virginia Tech, 1992-1995
Associate Professor of Chemistry, Virginia Tech, 1995-2005
Professor of Chemistry, Virginia Tech, 2005-present

Honors and Awards:
Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Innovator Award, 2010
Cook Faculty Teaching Award, VT Chemistry, 2002
Clemson University Outstanding Young Alumni Award, 2000
VT College of Arts and Sciences Diversity Award, 1996

Our research is aimed at the design, development and synthesis of novel mixed-metal transition metal complexes with applications to molecular devices, anticancer agents, catalysis and photochemical energy storage.

Current projects include:

  • The development of second generation molecular devices for photoinitiated electron collection,
  • The invention of new photoactivated anticancer agents,
  • The development of electrode immobilized catalysts for the catalytic reduction of carbon dioxide, and
  • The detailed analysis of the spectroscopic, electrochemical and photochemical properties of supramolecular mixed-metal complexes.

Research in chemical education includes the development of integrated molecular modeling, synthesis and spectroscopy laboratories for the undergraduate chemistry curriculum.

  1. “Efficient Photocatalytic Hydrogen Production in a Single Component System Using Ru,Rh,Ru Supramolecules Containing 4,7-Diphenyl-1,10-Phenanthroline,” Travis A. White, Samantha L. H. Higgins, Shamindri M. Arachchige, and Karen J. Brewer, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2011, 50, 12209-12212.
  2. “Electrochemical, Spectroscopic, and Photophysical Properties of Structurally Diverse Polyazine-Bridged Ru(II),Pt(II) and Os(II),Ru(II),Pt(II) Supramolecular Motifs,” Jessica D. Knoll, Shamindri M. Arachchige, Guangbin Wang, Krishnan Rangan, Ran Miao, Samantha L. H. Higgins, Benjamin Okyere, Meihua Zhao, Paul Croasdale, Katherine Magruder, Brian Sinclair, Candace Wall, and Karen J. Brewer, Inorg. Chem. 2011, 50, 8850-8860.
  3. “Discovering the Balance of Steric and Electronic Factors Needed to Provide a New Structural Motif for Photocatalytic Hydrogen Production from Water,” Travis A. White, Brittany N. Whitaker, and Karen J. Brewer, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 15332-15334.
  4. “A New Os,Rh bimetallic with O2 independent DNA cleavage and DNA photobinding with red therapeutic light excitation,” Jing Wang, Samantha L. H. Higgins, Brenda S. J. Winkel, and Karen J. Brewer, Chem. Commun. 2011, 47, 9786-9788.
  5. “Metal to ligand charge transfer induced DNA photobinding in a Ru(II)-Pt(II) supramolecule using red light in the therapeutic window: a new mechanism for DNA modification,” Samantha L. H. Higgins, Allison J. Tucker, Brenda S. J. Winkel, and Karen J. Brewer, Chem. Commun. 2012, 48, 67-69.

    Karen Brewer