Travis Dudding is a problem solver on a molecular level.
The associate professor in the department of Chemistry spends much of his research time trying to solve the mechanistic riddles around synthetically important chemical reactions using computational chemistry. In many cases, Dudding and his research team are after the synthesis of medicinally useful pharmaceuticals in a much shorter time, while utilizing considerably fewer resources as well.
His work has come to the attention of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States, who have awarded Dudding a $64,800 U.S. sub-contract to work on a specific reaction discovered by a colleague at the University at Buffalo. In the past three years, Sherry Chemler’s team has devised a reaction set that allows for the expedient preparation of chemically valuable nitrogen heterocycles, but as Dudding notes, the underlying mechanistic events taking place in these transformations were questionable, or unknown. Dudding’s team has been called in to unravel the mysteries.
“To find out what’s going on, it takes some very powerful computers, and a lot of knowledge,” and patience, he says. The use of computational methods in conjunction with kinetic experiments is a highly effective route for gaining mechanistic insight into reactions.
Even with Hermes, the super-computer built in Dudding’s lab and named after the Greek messenger demi-god, computations can take days and weeks to work through the system.
“The computer outperforms any other that we’ve come across, and the accuracy is astounding, but it is still a slow process.”
Dudding, originally from Blacksburg Virginia, is pleased to be working with the NIH again, as he did during his formative graduate and postdoctoral years. His academic journey has taken him a long way from his early academic life, when he initially interned for a major pharmaceutical company, studied at Virginia Tech University, worked at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., studied at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., and finally ended up at UCLA, where he did his postdoctoral fellowship under renowned theoretical chemist Kendall Houk, before landing at Brock University.
Dudding and his team, which includes two PhD students, a master’s student, and several undergraduate students, have funding for two years under this sub-contract.
The chemistry researcher will also spend time pursuing another quest: Canadian citizenship. “When I first came up here and met people, I just loved Canada. People are so friendly and so nice. Now I never want to leave.”
Dudding is on the right road for this journey: he recently attained landed immigrant status.