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Professor Robert Gilliard, Jr. Colloquium – UCI Celebrating Black in Physical Sciences Series

May 3 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Prof. Robert Gilliard
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Beryllium, Boron, and Bismuth: From Fundamental Redox Chemistry to Luminescent and Thermochromic Materials

Professor Robert Gilliard, Jr., Assistant Professor of Chemistry, University of Virginia

Hosted by: Isaiah Speight, Ph.D., UCI Postdoctoral Scholar in Chemistry

2:30 – 3 p.m. | Pre- event “Meet the Speaker”

3 – 4 p.m. | Formal Research Talk

This is part of the “Celebrating Black in Physical Sciences Colloquium Series” organized by the UCI School of Physical Sciences Office of Access, Outreach and Inclusion where we invite prominent Black physical scientists and mathematicians to share their research with the community and also allows us the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments. The colloquium series will feature speakers in each of the four department areas.


Professor Gilliard is a native of Hartsville, South Carolina. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Clemson University where he was an undergraduate researcher in the laboratory of Professor Rhett C. Smith. He earned his doctorate in chemistry at The University of Georgia with Professor Gregory H. Robinson. Gilliard was a Merck Postdoctoral Fellow and a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow where he completed his studies working jointly at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich) with Professor Hansjörg Grützmacher and at Case Western Reserve University with Professor John Protasiewicz. Gilliard joined the faculty at the University of Virginia as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry in the Fall of 2017. He has received several awards and honors. Recent honors include: named to Forbes Magazine 30 under 30 list in Science, Inorganic Chemistry and Chemistry-A European Journal Emerging Investigator, Chemical and Engineering News Talented 12 Scholar, Scialog Collaborative Innovation Award, National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award, Organometallics Distinguished Author Award, Beckman Young Investigator Award, Packard Fellowship. He also serves on the editorial advisory board for Chemical Communications, Chem Catalysis, Inorganic Chemistry, and Angewandte Chemie.


Research efforts in the Gilliard laboratory span diverse areas of chemical synthesis. While the redox chemistry of transition metals is established, the development of main-group element-mediated redox cycles remain a major challenge. This is in part due to inherent differences in electronic structure and the highly reactive nature of main-group elements in low oxidation states. Thus, we have been interested in the design and isolation of low-valent and cationic main-group compounds that impact energy-relevant molecular transformations, including reactions with small molecules (e.g., carbon dioxide, dihydrogen). Our work has mostly centered around establishing bonding and reactivity trends among the alkaline earth metals (Be, Mg) and heavy pnictogens (Sb, Bi). Recently, we have begun to study heterocycles “doped” with boron for the development of new π-electron materials with unusual bonding and photophysical properties. This has led to the first examples of pyrene-fused N-heterocyclic boranes, thermochromic and thermoluminescent borafluorenes, and stable boracyclic radicals. Our primary goal has been to isolate molecules in rare electronic states and to provide a link between structure and function. This presentation will highlight our most recent results in these research areas.