Peter T. Wolczanski obtained his B.S. in Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. There he helped Prof. Mark S. Wrighton initiate studies on the photoelectrolysis of H2O with TiO2 and SrTiO2 photoelectrodes. Despite a mediocre GPA, his undergraduate research and some temperance led to matriculation at the California Institute of Technology, where he was a Fluor Fellow in Prof. John E. Bercaw’s group. Investigation of zirconium hydrides, and the reduction of CO and related molecules ensued, leading to his Ph.D. in 1981, and honors as a McKoy Award winner. After a 2 month postdoctoral stint with Dr. William P. Schaefer at Caltech, designed to permit participation in one last backpacking trip, he became an Assistant Professor at Cornell University.
Professor Wolczanski’s research interests have included the synthesis and reactivity of early transition metal complexes with small molecules, such as dioxygen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrocarbons, and the generation of solid state and polymeric inorganic materials from molecular precursors. Studies continue to emphasize the reactivity of low coordinate molecules in bond activations, but interests in metal-metal bonding, the consequences of aggregation, and the influences of electronic states on chemical reactivity have surfaced. His main focus concerns generating strong field and redox non-innocent environments for 1st-row transition metals in an effort to broaden their scope in numerous stoichiometric and catalytic transformations; this includes a quest for metathesis active iron alkylidenes. He has also invented Charge Distribution Via Reporters (CDVR), a benchtop methodology used to determine charge variance in transition metal complexes.
Professor Wolczanski is an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, an American Academy of Arts & Sciences Fellow, recipient of the 2011 ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry, and the George W. & Grace L. Todd Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Biology at Cornell. He was the chair of the Organometallics Gordon Research Conference in 2002, and has served on the Organometallics and Inorganic Chemistry advisory boards.
He married Elizabeth A. Wood in June of 1993, and lives with her in a wooded area, where they fight a never-ending battle against the evil forces of nature (i.e., critters & weeds). Meanwhile, their 22-year old son Alex battles his way through life, and 20-year old daughter Grace stresses at Carnegie Mellon University. Occasionally PTW escapes to the golf course, inducing further stress in this ulterior quest for perfection, now that the triple bypass allows him to do so. Usually this is followed by an attack on his wine cellar in order to lower his score. In the winter he can often be found in some frigid building helping coach the Tompkins Girls Hockey Association 16U team, after shepherding Alex and Grace through years of youth hockey.