Matthew J. Chalkley
Alumni Resnick Graduate Research Fellow
Matthew graduated from Caltech with a PhD in chemistry. Prior to Caltech, he received his BS in chemistry from Yale in 2013 and was the co-director of the Yale Sustainability Service Corps. He then traveled to Germany to do research in synthetic inorganic chemistry with Professor Karsten Meyer as a Fulbright Fellow. At Caltech, he worked in the lab of Professor Jonas Peters, where his research focused on the role that proton-coupled electron transfer plays in the reduction of dinitrogen (N2) to ammonia (NH3). This is a complicated reaction in which the addition of six protons and six electrons to the typically inert N2 molecule must be carefully managed to avoid the undesired formation of H2. This reaction is of interest because it is the key step in the process of generating fertilizer. Unfortunately, current industrial methods for NH3 synthesis from N2 use high temperatures, high pressures, and materials derived from fossil fuels and thus are not sustainable. Therefore, researchers hope to leverage their knowledge of the mechanism of this reaction to one day provide more sustainable technologies for the synthesis of fertilizer, a goal which will only become increasingly important as the human population continues to grow.
Matthew received a 2020 Herbert Newby McCoy Award for his thesis research. The McCoy Awards honor outstanding research achievements by Caltech graduate students in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. While completing his graduate work, Matthew also worked as a tutor for the Caltech Y's Rise Program, an afterschool math and science-focused tutoring program serving public school students.
Matthew is currently a postdoctoral researcher with Professor William DeGrado at University of California, San Francisco.
RSI Research: Improved Efficiency and Sustainability in Synthetic Nitrogen Fixation via Utilization of Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer
Faculty Adviser: Jonas C. Peters
PhD Thesis: Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer in Nitrogen Fixation