Developing new routes to transform readily available and renewable resources into useful materials is one of the grand challenges of the 21st century chemistry. The design of catalysts that mimic the enzymes used by nature is a promising way to transform readily available starting materials such as plant cellulose. In this project, Professor Susanne Striegler of the University of Arkansas is developing fundamental understanding of enzyme-like catalysts and exploiting the synergy between their structure and function. This basic research is beneficial to our society as new avenues toward fine chemicals from bio-renewable resources grow in importance. Dr. Striegler is actively engaged in outreach activities to encourage middle and high school students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines and in combination with German language skill development. Encouraging students to strengthen their German language skills and STEM education prepares them to engage others at an international level and to study and work abroad.<br/><br/><br/>With funding from the Chemical Catalysis and Macromolecular, Supramolecular and Nanochemistry Programs of the Chemistry Division, Dr. Striegler of the University of Arkansas is developing biomimetic macromolecular, nanogel catalysts and elaborating the synergy between catalysis-supporting matrix effects and the catalytic function of transition metal complexes. The resulting catalysts may find applications ranging from new antimicrobial agents to biofuel production from non-activated oligosaccharides. Structure-activity relationship studies are being used to elaborate transition state-stabilizing interactions between non-activated saccharides and binuclear copper(II) complexes. The studies utilize kinetic analyses in combination with a computational approach to reveal binding sites of the saccharides, and energies and geometries of sugar-metal complex assemblies. The fundamental and basic studies are projected to maximize the catalytic potency of nanogels and open new research frontiers in biomimetic catalysis. Dr. Striegler is actively engaged in outreach programs focusing on student recruitment into the STEM fields by connecting German speaking local middle and high-school students and their teachers to the training and career opportunities in the STEM field.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.