Buck Taylor | University of Portland

Buck Taylor

Associate Professor of Chemistry


taylor-vertical.jpg“I am an organic chemist with expertise in computational chemistry and catalysis. I study how molecules and catalysts undergo reactions using quantum chemistry calculations. What I love about my field is how it’s a bit like chess: the basic rules are simple, but one can spend a lifetime learning and inventing new strategies, and no two games are exactly alike. By the same token, nature has found a myriad of ways for simple molecules to come together and create enormously complex structures and systems, and chemists are always inventing new reactions—new strategies—to create new compounds that solve problems in the world.

In my research lab we study newly discovered reactions, from nature or invented in the lab, to learn how they work and improve them, and students are involved in nearly every aspect of my research. We can’t directly see molecules reacting, so we study reactions by simulating them using quantum chemistry and supercomputers. 

All of my projects focus on metal-based catalysts that enable a new kind of reactivity—like inventing new moves in a chess game. For example, we are studying a type of reaction called olefin metathesis, which uses a ruthenium catalyst. One of the exciting applications of this reaction is creating new chemicals from vegetable oils to reduce our dependence on petroleum for making new chemicals and materials. 

I collaborate widely with other chemists at UP and beyond for my research, so I am constantly learning new chemistry and bringing examples from recent research problems into the classroom. It’s powerful for students to see how the principles they learn in class can be used to solve the latest research problems. Our students are committed to making the world better, whether through medicine, research, or even policy, and their plans often change as they learn more about what is out there. I love seeing students discover what they are passionate about and grow into young scientists.”

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