Wed, 23 Nov 2022
Events, Seminar Series

Dr. Rebecca Abergel

UC Berkely

Heavy element biological coordination: a fundamental take on the intersection of waste management, decontamination and nuclear medicine

Wednesday, November 23, 2022
SSB 7172 @ 3:30 p.m.

Host: Dr. Tim Storr



From potential contamination of individuals with radioactive fission products after a nuclear accident to the therapeutic use of radioisotopes for cancer diagnostics and treatment, the coordination and biological chemistry of actinides have become increasingly relevant to a number of applied problems. Understanding the fundamental bonding interactions of selective metal assemblies presents a rich set of scientific challenges and is critical to the characterization of f-element coordination chemistry in environmentally and biologically relevant species, and to the development of highly efficient separation reagents or new therapeutic agents. Our approach to these challenges uses a combination of biochemical and spectroscopic studies on both in vitro and in vivo systems to characterize the selective binding of f-block metal ions by natural and biomimetic hard oxygen-donor architectures and the subsequent macromolecular recognition of the resulting assemblies.

Luminescence sensitization, UV-Visible, X-ray absorption, and X-ray diffraction spectroscopic techniques as well as transmission electron microscopy and electron energy loss spectroscopy allow us to tune specific actinide coordination features by ligands that drive the differentiation of different metals through stabilization in specific oxidation states and provide information on their respective electronic structures. These studies will be discussed with a focus on emerging applications in separation, isotope production, and medicine.


Rebecca Abergel was raised in France and graduated from the École Normale Supérieure of Paris in 2002. She conducted her graduate studies in inorganic chemistry at UC Berkeley, under the supervision of Prof. Kenneth Raymond. Her doctoral work focused on the synthesis and characterization of siderophore analogs to probe microbial iron transport systems and design new iron chelating agents. As a joint postdoctoral researcher between the UC Berkeley Chemistry Department and the group of Prof. Roland Strong at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, she investigated the bacteriostatic function of the innate immune protein siderocalin in binding siderophores from pathogenic microorganisms such as Bacillus anthracis, for the development of new antibiotics. Abergel joined the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2009 and the Nuclear Engineering Department of UC Berkeley in 2018. She became the LBNL Heavy Element Chemistry Group Leader in 2018. Her research program is dedicated to investigating the fundamental coordination chemistry and biochemistry of heavy and f-elements, with therapeutic and environmental applications such as chelation, separation, bioremediation of toxic metals, and design of alpha-immuno therapy agents. She leads a large collaborative effort on the development of new drug products for the treatment of populations contaminated with heavy metals and radionuclides. One of these products was granted an Investigational New Drug status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014 and is now entering a Phase I clinical trial. She currently serves as the chair of the LBNL Radioactive Drug Research Committee and is an associate editor for the International Journal of Radiation Biology and a corresponding member (USA) for Radioprotection.

Abergel was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2019 and received two U.S. Department of Energy 2020 Secretary of Energy Achievement Honor Awards for her contributions as a member of the National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory and DOE National Laboratories’ COVID-19 Clinical Testing teams. She is the recipient of a WCC Rising Star award from the American Chemical Society (2017), an Early Career award from the U.S. Department of Energy (2014), and was selected as an Innovator under 35 – France by the MIT Technology Review in 2014. She received a Junior Faculty NCRP award (2013) from the Radiation Research Society, and a Young Investigator Research Fellowship (2010) from the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation.

Twitter handle - @bioactinide

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