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Henry C. Kelly

Emeritus Professor

Research Interests

A major focus of Dr. Henry (Jim) Kelly’s research has been the study of the kinetics and mechanisms of reactions of boron hydrides.  The origin of this interest dates to the early 1950s in his employment with Metal Hydrides Inc., a New England industrial company focused on the synthesis and commercial utilization of hydridic compounds, their primary function being their use as reducing agents in organic and inorganic reactions.  It is through a study of the variations of reactivity of such species that led to his investigations of their rates of decomposition, primarily through hydrolysis.  Numerous phases of these studies extended through his graduate work at Brown University followed by a year on the Brown faculty and his academic research at TCU.

The major compounds investigated are called amine-boranes wherein various amines are coordinated through bonding of nitrogen to a boron species containing hydridic hydrogen represented as R3N:BHxY3-x.  Here, variations in R will depict a variety of organic amines and Y may denote a non-hydridic ligand.  In all cases the structures contain nitrogen and boron, each tetrahedrally bonded to its ligands. The primary emphasis of this research has been focused on how the kinetics (rate of hydrolysis) is influenced by variations in R and Y, and how such changes influence the mechanism, or reaction pathway of hydrolysis.  Although such pathways are never directly proven, they often can be confidently accepted through intensive studies not only on the effect of structural change, but also on pH, the addition of specific reagents, alterations in the aqueous component of mixed solvent systems, and other factors that show consistency with given pathways and eliminate mechanisms that are inconsistent with such experimental findings.  Another phase of hydride research resulted in his obtaining a British Patent for the preparation of high purity silicon through the thermal decomposition of silane, SiH4.

Additional research while on sabbatical leave, was initiated with a group led by Dr. Peter Jones at The University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.  Here, studies were focused on reactions of the prosthetic group, i.e., a nonprotein portion, of a hemoprotein in which a number of organic rings exist with bonding to a central iron atom.  They involved the reactivity of heme analogs of peroxidase enzyme intermediates and included extended kinetic investigations of reactions of deuteroferriheme. wherein intermediate formation occurs through reaction with hydrogen peroxide. Subsequent studies at TCU have involved effects of specific reagents in the inhibition of such intermediate formation as well as reactions of deuteroferriheme which lead to its oxidation and effect as a catalyst in selected halogenations.  Another area of research undertaken while on sabbatical at The University of Kent at Canterbury, England, was in collaboration with a group headed by Dr. Brian Robinson and involved the kinetic study of Inclusion Compound formation with alpha-Cyclodextrin.  Kelly also served as Chemistry Department Chair from 1989 to 1995.

Another area of commitment has involved several years of service in the TCU Honors Program.  It started with the teaching of honors courses and developed into service as Director of the Honors Program from 1981 through 1988.  This provided the opportunity to interact with TCU colleagues who were devoted to the application of their talents to students desiring expanded study in various fields.  It also led to interaction with many who were associated with Honors Programs across the region leading to shared insight in teaching as well as involvement in The Great Plains Honors Council.  A highlight of the time at TCU came through the dedication of students who were seriously committed not only to their own scholarship, but also to the promotion of the quality of the Program to entering students. It was this combined support, interdepartmental collaboration, and association with programs in the region that contributed to continuation of growth derived from the outstanding work of the Program founder, Dr. Paul Wassenich.