As an undergraduate, Matt worked in the lab of Christopher Reed at the University of California, Riverside exploring the chemistry of icosahedral boron clusters and reactive cations. There, he prepared for the first time, the strongest known Brønsted acid, H[CHB11F11] and used it to protonate weak bases such as alkanes. After acquiring a masters degree at UCR, Matt went on to obtain his PhD with Christopher Cummins at MIT. At MIT, he honed his synthetic inorganic chemistry skills developing and exploring the chemistry of supramolecular architectures capable of acting as anion receptors and ligands for first row-transition metals in a protected cavity. This work led to fundamental insight into the degradation processes occurring in lithium-air batteries. Besides synthetic work, he also integrated spectroscopic techniques such as Laser-Induced Fluorescence, microwave spectroscopy, and molecular beam mass spectrometry to investigate reactive and short-lived molecules including phosphinidenes and the biologically important signaling molecule, HSNO. As a postdoctoral fellow, Matt started a new collaborative effort between the labs of Daniel Nocera and Daniel Kahne at Harvard to study the rate of formation of the outermost membrane of Gram-negative bacteria.
The Nava lab is interested in understanding how to efficiently translate molecular structure and reactivity to address challenges at the frontiers of materials, biological and energy conversion chemistries. Two broad thrusts will form the basis of the program: understanding the role of metals, particularly those in unusual oxidation states, in materials or biological systems and facilitating reversible chemical conversions to enable new energy storage technologies. In order to achieve these idealized goals, advancements must be made in the art of synthetic inorganic chemistry and accordingly, work in the Nava lab will focus at the interface of chemical synthesis and application in a sustained feedback loop. Key long-term objectives include the controlled investigation of a supporting ligand properties in the reduction of an atom for rational formation of materials and alloys, manipulation of said properties to control the biological-nanomaterials interface, and the interconversion of hydrides and hydrogen for next generation energy storage applications.
Honors & Awards
- Alan Davison Fellowship (2014)
- Lester Wolfe Fellowship (2013)
- ODGE Diversity Fellowship (2012)
- California Math and Science Teaching Initiative (2007-09)
- UCR STEM Fellowship (2009)
- MarcU* Trainee Fellowship (2008)
- SURF Fellowship (2007)