Christopher C. Cummins

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Election Year: 2017
Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Membership Type: Member


Christopher Cummins is an inorganic chemist known for his work in early transition-metal chemistry, small molecule activation, and metal-ligand multiple bonds. He is known particularly for his studies on low-coordinate complexes of molybdenum and niobium and their application to synthesis stemming from the elements nitrogen and phosphorus. Cummins was born in Boston, Massachusetts, moved to New Orleans, and grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota. He graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, with a degree in chemistry, and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1993 with a PhD in inorganic chemistry. He joined the MIT faculty in 1993. He is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Research Interests

Christopher Cummins’ laboratory is conducting exploratory synthesis investigations aimed at reaction discovery and the uncovering of new kinds of chemical linkages and molecular structures. The synthesis of three-coordinate molybdenum(III) complexes led to the finding of N2 reductive scission. Nitric oxide deoxygenation afforded chromium(VI) nitride complexes. White phosphorus transformation by niobium complexes allowed for development of P3-transfer reactivity culminating in the synthesis of the AsP3 molecule. Methods have been developed for generation of the P2 molecule as a highly reactive, transient intermediate, leading to chlorine-free routes for phosphorus incorporation into organic molecules. P2 transfer to the azide ion gave rise to an inorganic “click reaction” and provided the planar P2N3− anion, a simple aromatic species composed exclusively of phosphorus and nitrogen. Other key avenues of investigation involve (or have involved) heavier main-group element multiple bonding, aminophosphinidene molecules as reactive intermediates, uranium delta-backbonding to aromatic hydrocarbons, atom-transfer reactions and terminal phosphide, carbide and nitride complexes, unusual ligands synthesized and stabilized in a metal’s coordination sphere, anion receptor chemistry and macro-bicyclic hexacarboxamide cryptand systems for oxygen transformations, carbon dioxide bonding modes and utilization, crystalline metaphosphate acid anion chemistry, and anthracene as a vehicle to enable mapping of interstellar molecules’ reactivity patterns.

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