The Chemistry Department Presents: Exploring bonding trends from actinium to einsteinium with biological ligands

Where separation, decontamination and nuclear medicine meet

Dr. Rebecca Abergel
Rebecca Abergel, PhD

From potential contamination of individuals with radioactive fission products after a nuclear accident to the therapeutic use of radio-isotopes for cancer diagnostics and treatment, the biological chemistry of actinides has become increasingly relevant to a number of applied problems. Understanding the fundamental bonding interactions of selective metal assemblies presents a rich set of scientific challenges and is critical to the characterization of f-element coordination chemistry in environmentally and biologically relevant species, and to the development of highly efficient separation reagents or new therapeutic agents. Our approach to these challenges uses a combination of biochemical and spectroscopic studies on both in vitro and in vivo systems to characterize the selective binding of f-block metal ions by natural and biomimetic hard oxygen-donor architectures and the subsequent macromolecular recognition of the resulting assemblies. Luminescence sensitization, UV-Visible, X-ray absorption, and X-ray diffraction spectroscopic techniques allow us to tune specific actinide coordination features by ligands that drive the differentiation of different metals through stabilization in specific oxidation states and provide information on their respective electronic structures. These studies, combined with in vitro toxicity and in vivo biokinetic results, have important implications for the development of new transport, separation, luminescence, and therapeutic applications.

Speaker Bio

Rebecca Abergel graduated from the École Normale Supérieure of Paris 2002. Abergel joined the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2009 and the Nuclear Engineering Department of UC Berkeley in 2018. As the LBNL Heavy Element Chemistry Program Leader in 2018, her research program investigates the fundamental coordination chemistry and biochemistry of heavy and f-elements, with therapeutic and environmental applications such as chelation, separation, bioremediation of toxic metals, and design of alpha-immuno therapy agents. She leads a collaborative effort on the development of new drug products for the treatment of populations contaminated with heavy metals and radionuclides. She currently serves as the Deputy Director of the LBNL Institute for Resilient Communities, the chair of the LBNL Radioactive Drug Research Committee and is an associate editor for the International Journal of Radiation Biology and a corresponding member (USA) for Radioprotection. Dr. Abergel’s awards include WCC Rising Star award, American Chemical Society (2017); Early Career award, U.S. Department of Energy (2014), Innovator under 35 – France by the MIT Technology Review in 2014.

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