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Dr. T. K. Vinod with (L-R) Racheal Lewis, Michael Bowsher and Arun Thottumkara
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Western Illinois Professor Secures Chemistry Patent

August 22, 2005


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MACOMB, IL - - Research science and human emotion, often seen as at odds with one another, are the exact elements that earned Dr. T. K. Vinod, a Western Illinois University chemistry professor, his first-ever U.S. patent, which was awarded for the synthesis of a water-soluble reagent named modified o-iodoxybenzoic acid (mIBX) and its demonstration as an effective oxidizing agent.

The research that led to this discovery began in April 2000 in a rather unique way, Vinod said. While his son, Arun Thottumkara, was in eighth grade, both father and son developed a science project for Arun’s eighth grade Illinois Region 1 Science Fair. The goal of the project was to create DEET, the active ingredient in many insect repellents, in an eco-friendly fashion. Even though they succeeded and Arun presented an impressive project, he did not win a single prize, Vinod explained.

"Seeing how disappointed he was, I was determined to help Arun find a science project that would teach him a significant amount of chemistry, and more importantly, help him regain his confidence," Vinod said. "Originally I thought it would merely be a small science project in which I could teach Arun chemistry and laboratory techniques.

"We are both interested in green chemistry, a new field of chemistry that seeks to make chemical processes and compounds in an environmentally friendly manner. We began reading scientific papers in this area and came upon the topic that has evolved into my primary research project: ‘Synthesis of User-Friendly Hypervalent Iodine Reagents and Their Use as Effective Oxidizing agents.’ This is the work for which Arun and I recently received a U.S. patent," Vinod said.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office allowed the issuance of the patent to Western Illinois University based on this research. The actual patent will be issued within the next few months.

A National Science Foundation grant awarded in June 2004 enabled Vinod to employ six Western Illinois undergraduate and graduate students in the continuing research of various topics in hypervalent iodine chemistry. Arun, who is a sophomore chemistry major at Harvard University, also has worked in his father's lab every summer since 2000.

Michael Bowsher (Riverton, IL), a Spring 2005 Western graduate, is among Vinod's student researchers. Currently a master's degree candidate under Vinod's tutelage, Bowsher presented the published results of his undergraduate research, "The Catalytic Use of o-iodoxybenzoic acid (IBX) in Oxidation Reactions in the Presence of a Co-oxidant," at the Northeastern Regional American Chemical Society meeting in New Haven, CT.

Bowsher, Thottumkara, and Vinod are the authors of a recently published paper in Organic Letters, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Chemical Society. The paper outlines the results of a research project that Thottumkara and Bowsher worked on Summer 2004 and the 2004-05 school year.

"It's important for the students to make presentations at professional conferences and to publish in journals. They are the future for science," Vinod added.

“It’s hard for me to explain how Dr. Vinod has influenced my career choices,” Bowsher said. “At first I was just looking for a degree in chemistry, and now I’m looking to complete the highest possible degree so that I may be able to work in advanced areas of science that could be beneficial for everyone.”

Arun continues to follow in his father's footsteps. He was the national gold medal winner in the prestigious Siemens-Westinghouse in Math, Science, and Technology, the 2003 National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium Champion in Chemistry as well as a multiple award winner at Intel International Science and Engineering Fairs. Arun also has presented the Vinod lab’s research at regional and national American Chemical Society conferences. He and his father are also authors of a 2002 paper published in Tetrahedron Letters, another premier academic journal for the chemistry community.

"Once Arun returns to Harvard in September he will begin doing research in the labs of Professor Erin N. Jacobsen, a distinguished organic chemist," said Vinod. "He hopes to eventually earn a Ph.D. and become a professor. I am very proud of him."

Vinod came to Western Illinois University in 1997. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Calicut, India, and his Ph.D. at the University of Victoria, Canada. Vinod did postdoctoral work at Michigan State University and worked as an instructor at the University of Oregon.

For more information on Vinod’s research, visit his web page at www.wiu.edu/users/michem/TKVinod.html.


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