UM professor earns distinguished National Science Foundation CAREER grant

February 22, 2016

MISSOULA - Orion Berryman, an assistant professor in the University of Montana Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, recently received a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation.

Berryman initially will receive $270,000 to aid in research expenses, and the grant will continue through the next five years. His award is expected to total $675,000.

"The recognition is extremely fulfilling, and I'm honored to showcase some of the cutting-edge, student-driven research happening at the University of Montana," Berryman said. "This award affords the opportunity for us to highlight the recent state-of-the-art X-ray diffractometer that we brought to UM, thanks to funding also from the NSF. This success would not have been possible without generous support from the University and my colleagues."

In his project, titled "CAREER: Fundamental Studies of Multidentate Halogen

Bond Donors for Supramolecular Catalysis," Berryman designs molecules that complement the size and electrical charge of sulfur compounds to serve as catalysts in reactions containing sulfur and other polarizable molecules. His work has broad application, as reactions involving sulfur compounds are important in fields such as drug development, separation science, environmental remediation and crystal engineering.

"This research addresses whether interactions between molecules can be developed into a new genre of catalysis to inspire a new generation of scientists," Berryman wrote in his grant proposal.

Berryman also uses 3-D printing for outreach and to teach students about chemical concepts, including molecular recognition, shape selectivity, X-ray diffraction and X-ray crystallography.

"We are very excited about 3-D printing the structures of molecules to teach students about spatial concepts related to chemistry," Berryman said. "We are also working with the spectrUM science museum to integrate 3-D printing and crystallography to show kids how cool science really is."

At UM, Berryman works in organic and inorganic chemistry, supramolecular chemistry and chemical biology. His laboratory focuses on new uses of noncovalent interactions and applying them to critical chemistry-related problems.

Berryman's award marks the second CAREER grant this year awarded to a UM faculty member. The previous grant went to John McCutcheon from UM's Division of Biological Sciences.

"Dr. Berryman is another example of the excellent new faculty at the University," said Scott Whittenburg, vice president for research and creative scholarship at UM. "With typically 300 to 400 NSF CAREER awards annually across all universities in the country, the fact that the University of Montana received two awards this year is rare and a testament to the quality of the researchers being recruited to campus."
The CAREER Program, also known as the Faculty Early Career Development Program, is the NSF's most prestigious awards for junior faculty who are dedicated to integrating both research and education. CAREER grant awards range from $400,000 to $1 million, with around a 20 percent funding rate in the chemistry division.

For more information on CAREER grants, visit the National Science Foundation website at

The University of Montana

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