Dr. Robert Taylor retires July 1, 2023

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Dr. Robert Taylor

After 22 years of service to the department, we bid farewell to MIC Magnetic Resonance Staff Scientist Dr. Robert “Bob” Taylor, who retired on July 1, 2023.

Dr. Robert Taylor (front right) was presented with a crystal award at a special lunch with Dr. Saeed Khan (left), who also retired on July 1st, Professor Chuck Strouse, Dr. Jane Strouse and Dr. Ignacio Martini (not pictured)

Bob’s contributions to the department will be sorely missed. It would be hard to overstate the impact he’s had on the education and training of students in Chemistry for the last two decades. His training sessions were renowned throughout the department for their length and thoroughness. Bob was known to extend a training session for hours, if necessary, to make sure that the student understood the reasons behind everything they were doing. Dr. Robert Peterson, who will be Bob’s replacement at the UCLA Molecular Instrumentation Center (MIC), and who has been Bob’s longtime coworker said “Bob is a genuine expert in both Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) theory and instrumentation. Not many people realize how much he does behind the scenes to keep the whole place running.”

Bob received his B.S. in Physics in 1975 from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 1980 from Iowa State University from Professor Bernie Gerstein for the development and applications of Combined Rotation and Multipulse Spectroscopy (CRAMPS). His first positions as an NMR spectroscopist were in the petrochemical industry at both Conoco and Shell in the early eighties. He later moved to Shell’s Biological Sciences Research Center in Modesto, CA, to focus on agricultural chemistry. With the upheavals of corporate mergers, he left the chemical industry to become an NMR applications scientist for Bruker Instruments. After 13 years with Bruker, including company positions in both Germany and Japan, he returned to an academic setting in the NMR facility at Texas A&M University. In 2001, Dr. Jane Strouse, the department’s instrumentation director, hired Bob for a position in the NMR facility in our department, a few years before MIC was created. His reason for returning to a university setting was the opportunity to pursue some of his own research interests.

Among these interests, since 2015, Bob has been studying how magic-angle spinning alters the spin-lattice relaxation rate. He examined two limiting cases: one in which the entire spectral lineshape could be excited by the radiofrequency pulses (quadrupolar nuclei in solids) and the second in which the radiofrequency pulses cannot fully excite the full spectral lineshape (samples of WB2 which display three different resonances), with the hope of finding a method to unambiguously measure the relaxation times when multiple sites are present in the material.

Bob won the 2012-13 Staff Appreciation and Recognition (“STAR”) Award and was a co-author on the manuscript which won the 2007 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize.

Among his scientific contributions, while at UCLA, he collaborated with the group of Professor Richard Kaner in the investigation of the bonding environment of superhard and superconductive Metal Diborides, publishing several papers. He also applied novel NMR techniques to provide characterization and understanding of Topological Insulators, Thermoelectrics, and Dirac Semimetals. In particular, he developed techniques to separate bulk and surface properties. This work was part of the research efforts in the groups of Professor Louis Bouchard, in Chemistry, and Professor Kang Wang, in Electrical Engineering. Bob co-authored several papers showing these data.

Many years back, Bob helped with the investigation of structural dynamics in crystalline porous materials as candidates for hydrogen storage, physical separation of gases, and artificial molecular machines. Again, he applied NMR techniques to elucidate and characterize the molecular motions in several categories of porous materials as well as non-porous materials. For these studies, he co-authored a few papers with principal investigators Professors Omar Yaghi and Miguel García-Garibay.

Bob also published a high-profile paper in Science with Yaghi in 2007 on 3D Organic Frameworks, and more recently helped the group of James Bowie perform high resolution NMR experiments, that were published in Nature Communications in 2019, on the prenylation of natural products and application to cannabinoid production.

Bob is a baseball enthusiast, and follows his alma mater, Louisiana State University as well as UCLA’s baseball team.

Article by Dr. Ignacio Martini, MIC Director, and Materials Instrumentation Scientist, martini@chem.ucla.edu