Insight into Molecular Makeup at UConn’s NMR Facility

Director of UConn’s NMR facility, Vitaliy Gorbatyuk. (Carson Stifel/UConn Photo).

Right now, there are atoms and molecules inside everything around you. These tiny particles of matter may seem insignificant as you go about your everyday life. But for many scientists and researchers, understanding the compounds that make up the materials they are working with can be critical.

At the University of Connecticut, the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) facility provides instrumentation that can identify compounds produced by chemists, biologists, or extracted from natural products.

NMR is a technique used to gain insight into the building blocks, composition, and spacing of atoms in a molecule. The equipment used in this process is called a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. In NMR, a solution of a compound is placed inside a very strong magnet. In this magnetic environment, nuclei of atoms gain properties that allow them to absorb the electromagnetic fields applied to probe these nuclei. Once the nuclei return from the excited state to the ground state they emit the absorbed energy. There are radio antennas inside of the instrumentation that detect the radio-frequency signals which the nuclei radiate. The emitted signals make up a frequency chart (spectrum) characteristic of the compound placed in the magnet.

With approximately 150 active, registered users, the facility directly supports and impacts research programs in the following areas: chemical synthesis, pharmaceutical chemistry, molecular recognition and drug binding, macromolecules, nanomaterials, analysis of chemical mixtures, protein structure-function relationships, protein folding and design, nucleic acid structure and reactivity, and molecular dynamics.

Instead of analyzing samples for prospective users, the facility director, Vitaliy Gorbatyuk, Ph.D., trains scientists to utilize the instrumentation on their own.

“I am glad that I can train researchers to use this equipment because often the skills they gain at this facility can help them later on in their careers. Their mastery of the NMR spectrometers here can provide a foundation for them to become skilled at using even more advanced types of instrumentation in the future,” says Gorbatyuk.

The facility houses multiple spectrometers, including: Varian INOVA 600 MHz, Bruker AVANCE 500 MHz, Bruker AVANCE III 400 MHz, and Bruker AVANCE 300 MHz. Gorbatyuk has years of experience in the field of NMR spectrometry that allow him to be of great help to the users of this facility. In 2001, Gorbatyuk came to the United States as a researcher, and used NMR techniques to work on projects in structural biology related fields. He began working at UConn’s NMR facility ten years ago.

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By Carson Stifel ‘21 (CLAS) | Story courtesy of UConn Today


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