Carnegie Mellon University

Terrence Collins

Terrence J. Collins

Teresa Heinz Professor in Green Chemistry, Chemistry
Director, Institute for Green Science


1978     Doctor of Philosophy, University of Auckland


Green chemistry, green oxidation catalysis in water, inorganic chemistry, biomimetic chemistry of peroxidase enzymes, mechanisms of oxidation catalysis, novel approaches to water purification


Design of Green Oxidation Catalysts

We design homogeneous oxidation catalysts to activate the natural oxidants, hydrogen peroxide and oxygen. By following an iterative design protocol, we have developed TAML activators with iron as the active metal that are outstanding peroxidase mimics, but are only about 1% the size of the enzymes. Peroxidase enzymes are distributed widely in nature and activate hydrogen peroxide to oxidize organic substrates. We are continuing to develop our insight into how to control catalyst lifetime, reactivity and selectivity via ligand design and are producing new peroxidase mimics with targeted reactivity features. Students learn to design high performance oxidation catalysts and to apply synthetic organic and inorganic chemistry to enable their design work.

Mechanisms of Action of Green Oxidation Catalysts

In water with hydrogen peroxide (or some other oxidizing agents), TAML activators produce exceptionally strong oxidizing systems that generally perform rapidly and are capable of large turnover numbers. The reaction chemistry is usually highly efficient in hydrogen peroxide use and appears to be primarily non-radical in nature. We design ways to kinetically isolate the various steps in the complex catalytic cycle and then measure the rate behavior as we work to construct a full quantitative picture of the catalysis. Students learn how to perform kinetic studies on complex catalytic systems including stopped-flow and conventional techniques.

Developing Potential Applications of Green Oxidation Catalysts

TAML activators do their catalytic work at remarkably low concentrations, low micromolar to nanomolar. By using design understanding informed by mechanistic insight, we have been able to produce variants that oxidize many pollutants in water over a wide range of reaction conditions. The list includes persistent chlorinated phenols, natural and synthetic estrogens, active pharmaceutical agents, dyes and colored lignin fragments, chemical warfare agents, persistent explosives residuals, pesticides, and colored and smelly pollutants from the pulp and paper industry. High performance disinfection of hardy pathogens including bacterial spores and clostridia has also been discovered. Students learn how to follow these processes using a range of analytical techniques.


Are endocrine disrupting chemicals driving down birth rates in Asia?
Le Ye Lee, Shanna H. Swan, Terry Collins, Pete Myers, Seeram Ramakrishna, Springer-Nature Sustainability Community, 2020,

Transformative Catalysis Purifies Municipal Wastewater of Micropollutants
Yogesh Somasundar, Minkyu Park, Kevin D. Daniels, Genoa R. Warner, Alexander D. Ryabov, Shane A. Snyder, and Terrence J. Collins, ACS EST Water 2021, 1, 2155–2163

Detoxification of oil refining effluents by oxidation of naphthenic acids using TAML catalysts
Angela Pinzón-Espinosa,Terrence J. Collins, Rakesh Kanda, Science of The Total Environment 2021, 784:14714

Quantifying evolving toxicity in the TAML/peroxide mineralization of propranolol
Yogesh Somasundar, Abigail E. Burton, Matthew R. Mills, David Z. Zhang, Alexander D. Ryabov, Terrence J. Collins, IScience, 2021, 24, 101897, January 22:

Predicting Properties of Iron(III) TAML Activators of Peroxides from Their III/IV and IV/V Reduction Potentials or a Lost Battle to Peroxidase
Yogesh Somasundar, Longzhu Q. Shen, Alexis G. Hoane, Evan Z. Kaaret, Genoa R. Qrner, Alexander D. Ryabov, Terrence J. Collins, Chem. Eur. J. 2020, 26, 14738-14744:

Kinetics of catalytic oxidation of the potent aquatic toxin microcystin-LR by latest generation TAML activators
Hannah C. Frame, Yogesh Somasundar, Genoa R. Warner, Alexander D. Ryabov & Terrence J. Collins Journal of Coordination Chemistry, 2020, 73:17-19, 2613-2620:

TAML- and Buffer-Catalyzed Oxidation of Picric Acid by H2O2: Products, Kinetics, DFT, and the Mechanism of Dual Catalysis
Soumen Kundu, Longzhu Q. Shen, Yogesh Somasundar, Medini Annavajhala, Alexander D. Ryabov, and Terrence J. Collins, Inorganic Chemistry 2020, 2020, 59, 13223–13232:

Oxidative Catalysis by TAMLs: Obtaining Rate Constants for Non‐Absorbing Targets by UV‐Vis Spectroscopy
Yogesh Somasundar, Iris C. Lu, Matthew R. Mills, Lisa Y. Qian, Ximena Olivares, Alexander D. Ryabov, and Terrence J. Collins, Chem.Phys.Chem. 2020, 21, 1083-1086

Designing Materials for Aqueous Catalysis: Ionic Liquid Gel and Silica Sphere Entrapped Iron-TAML Catalysts for Oxidative Degradation of Dyes
Peter McNeice, Andrew Reid, Carol McDonagh, Joel D. Walby,,Terrence J. Collins, Andrew C. Marr, Patricia C. Marr, Environ. Sci. Tech. 2020, 54, 14026–14035:

Zero-order Catalysis in TAML-catalyzed Oxidation of Imidacloprid, a Neonicotinoid Pesticide
Genoa R. Warner, Yogesh Somasundar, Cindy Weng, Mete H. Akin, Alexander D. Ryabov, and Terrence J. Collins, Chem. Eur. J. 2020, 26, 7631-7637:

Controlling Toxic Exposures
Philip J. Landrigan, Terrence J. Collins, John Peterson Myers, In Planetary Health, (A textbook) Chapter 12, Eds. Howard Frumkin, and Samuel Myers. 2020, Island Press, DOI:

Bioinspired, multidisciplinary, iterative catalyst design creates the highest performance peroxidase mimics and the field of Sustainable Ultradilute Oxidation Catalysis
Warner, G.R.; Somasundar, Y.; Jansen, K.C.; Kaaret, E.Z.; Weng, C.; Burton, A.E.; Mills, M.R.; Shen, L.Q.; Ryabov, A.D.; Pros, G.; Pintauer, T.; Biswas, S.; Hendrich, M.P.; Taylor, J.A.; Vom Saal, F.S.; Collins, T.J., ACS Catalysis, 2019, 9, 723–737, DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.9b01409

A Synthetically Generated LFeIVOHn Complex
Andrew C. Weitz, Matthew R. Mills, Alexander D. Ryabov, Terrence J. Collins, Yisong Guo, Emile L. Bominaar, and Michael P. Hendrich, Inorg. Chem. 2019, 58 (3), pp 2099–2108. DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.8b03200

Structural, Mechanistic, and Ultradilute Catalysis Portrayal of Substrate Inhibition in the TAML−Hydrogen Peroxide Catalytic Oxidation of the Persistent Drug and Micropollutant, Propranolol
Yogesh Somasundar, Longzhu Q. Shen, Alexis G. Hoane, Liang L. Tang, Matthew R. Mills, Abigail E. Burton, Alexander D. Ryabov, and Terrence J. Collins, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 12280-12289

Bis phenylene flattened 13-membered tetraamide macrocyclic ligand (TAML) for square planar cobalt(III)
W. Chadwick Ellis, Alexander D. Ryabov, Andreas Fischer, Joshua A. Hayden, Longzhu Q. Shen, Emile L. Bominaar, Michael P. Hendrich & Terrence J. Collins, J. Coord. Chem. 2018 DOI: 10.1080/00958972.2018.1487060


Years Position
2010–present Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry Carnegie Mellon University
2001–2010 Thomas Lord Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University
1988–1992 Associate Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University
1981–1987 Assistant Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
1978–1980 Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University

Awards and Distinctions

Years Award
2021 Fast Company's World Changing Ideas Awards
2021 Start-ups to Watch (Sudoc)
2018 The Environment Award, Carnegie Science Center
2013 Fellow, American Chemical Society
2010 Heinz Award for the Environment
2008 Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand
2008 Charles E. Kaufman Award of the Pittsburgh Foundation
2007 Award of the New York Metropolitan Catalysis Society
2007 Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of Auckland, New Zealand
2006 Fellow of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemists
2004 Pittsburgh Award of the American Chemical Society
2004 Award of the Baylor University ACS Students Affiliates for Outstanding Achievements in Green chemistry
2002 Golden Goggles Award, Middle Tennessee State University
2001 Honorary Professor, University of Auckland, 2001
1998 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award
1997 Award of the Japanese Society of Pure and Applied Coordination Chemistry
1997 Award of the Japanese Society of Pure and Applied Coordination Chemistry
1986 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
1985 Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar