Denyce Wicht, PhD
Associate Professor, Chemistry & BiochemistrySend a Message
On sabbatical, AY 2019-2020
- PhD, Dartmouth College
- BA, University of Vermont
Broadly speaking, my research interests involve understanding the mechanistic processes that cleave methyl group carbon bonds (–CH3) to high-valent main group elements, specifically silicon (Si) and sulfur (S).
I’m interested in silicon–carbon bonds (Si–CH3) of the molecule dimethylsilanediol (abbreviated DMSD, structure shown below) because this specific molecule has been detected in environmental matrices. One source of DMSD in the environment is from chemical additives in personal care and other down-the-drain household products. Because no naturally occurring organosilicon compounds have been reported, chemical species containing silicon–carbon bonds, such as DMSD, are anthropogenic. The impacts of organosilicon xenobiotics are not entirely clear, but there is evidence for Si–CH3 catabolism in mammals. The long-term goal of my research is the identification of a catalytic system that can efficiently break the Si–CH3 bonds of DMSD under mild conditions and physiological pH. Neither a chemical nor a biological catalytic system has yet been identified. The identification of a catalyst capable of breaking a Si–CH3 bond would be a significant advancement in the field and applicable to the design of systems engineered to treat environmental pollutants.
The other bond I’m interested in is the sulfur–carbon bond (S–CH3) of the molecule dimethylsulfone (abbreviated DMSO2, structure shown below). Unlike DMSD, DMSO2 is a naturally occurring molecule. This compound enters the terrestrial environment through the chemical oxidation of biogenic dimethylsulfide, a compound that plays a major role in the global sulfur cycle. Despite the natural deposition of an estimated 2-8 million tons of DMSO2 annually, DMSO2 has not directly been detected in soil environments. In nature, it is speculated that soil bacteria biodegrade DMSO2. Perhaps indirect evidence for DMSO2 deposition are reports of microorganisms isolated from soil that can utilize DMSO2 for growth and metabolism, but the complete biochemical reactions that DMSO2 undergoes have not been elucidated. An ongoing research interest of mine involves understanding the enzymatic pathways through which DMSO2 is used by microorganisms. Understanding how soil bacteria break the sulfur–carbon bond (S–CH3) in a naturally occurring molecule may provide insight into how to design a catalyst to break other methyl group carbon bonds (–CH3) to high-valent main group elements.
chemistry structures image
The structures of dimethylsilanediol (DMSD) and dimethylsulfone (DMSO2)
- Wellesley College, 2003-2005
Visiting Assistant Professor
- General Electric Global Research Center, 2000-2002
Chemist; Polymer and Specialty Chemical Technologies
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1999-2000
Scholarship and Creative Endeavors at Suffolk University (*denotes a Suffolk University undergraduate co-author)
Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles
- Wicht, D. K. The Reduced Flavin-Dependent Monooxygenase SfnG Converts Dimethylsulfone to Methanesulfinate. Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 2016, 604, 159-166.
- O’Brien, K. E.*; Wicht, D. K. A greener organic chemistry experiment: Reduction of citronellal to citronellol using poly(methylhydro)siloxane. Green Chem. Lett. Rev. 2008, 1, 149-154.
Presentations at Conferences (oral)
- Wicht, D. K. Biochemical characterization of enzymes involved in sulfur assimilation from dimethylsulfone, 250th Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Boston, MA, Aug., 2015.
- Wicht, D. K.; Mocka, C. A.* An Undergraduate Research Experience in Green Chemistry: Exploring An Immobilization Strategy for a Heterogeneous Catalyst, 12th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference, Washington D.C., June, 2008.
Presentations at Conferences (poster)
- Wicht, D. K.; Parker, M. J. “The Putative Reduced Flavin-Dependent Methanesulfinate Monooxygenase MsuC,” 25th Enzyme Mechanisms Conference, St. Pete Beach, FL, January 6, 2017.
- Wicht, D. K.; Atehortua, L. M.*; Baril, S. A.*; Hashem, K. M.*; Kollarova, E. L.*; Widjajahakim, R.*, "Towards the mitigation of volatile methyl siloxanes in biogas: Biologically mediated oxidative demethylation of dimethylsilanediol," 245th Meeting of the American Chemical Society, New Orleans, LA, April, 2013.
- Wicht, D. K. “Increasing Undergraduate Awareness of Green Chemistry through Research.” United States Environmental Protection Agency New England Green Chemistry Networking Forum, Boston, MA, December, 2010.
Contributions to Books
- Wicht, D. K. Green Chemistry Essay: We’re Going to Need a Bigger Earth. In Chemistry for Changing Times, 12th Edition; Hill, J. W.; McCreary, T. W.; Kolb, D. K.; Eds.; Pearson Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2010; p 336.
- Wicht, D. K. Green Chemistry Essay: Catalysts. In Chemistry for Changing Times, 11th Edition, Hill, J. W.; Kolb, D. K.; Eds.; Pearson Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2007; p 320.
- Wicht, D. K. Green Chemistry Essay: Antifouling in Rivers of Life; Seas of Sorrow. In Chemistry for Changing Times, 11th Edition; Hill, J. W., Kolb, D. K., Eds.; Pearson Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2007; p 378.