Christopher “Kit” Colin Cummins was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up also in New Orleans, Louisiana and then in Bloomington, Minnesota. As a young man his interests included reading, raising butterflies, farming, fishing, canoe expeditions, sailing, gymnastics, and diving.
In college, Kit benefited from formative undergraduate research experiences carried out sequentially in the laboratories of Professors Susan E. Kegley, James P. Collman, and Peter T. Wolczanski, respectively of Middlebury College, Stanford University and Cornell University. He graduated from the latter institution with an AB degree in 1989. Following this he undertook inorganic chemistry graduate studies under the direction of Professor Richard R. Schrock at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he obtained his PhD degree in 1993 with a thesis entitled “Synthetic Investigations Featuring Amidometallic Complexes”.
Also in 1993 Kit joined the MIT chemistry faculty as an Assistant Professor (promoted to Professor in 1996) and launched an independent program of research devoted to exploratory synthetic inorganic chemistry. In 2015, Kit was named the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Chemistry, his current title.
Highlights from this work include low-coordinate, anilide-supported complexes of the early metals titanium, vanadium, niobium, chromium, molybdenum, and also uranium, and novel small-molecule (N2, NO, N2O, CO, CO2, P4, RN3, RCN, arene) activation reactions effected by the new complexes. These bond-cleavage reactions often resulted in metal-ligand multiple bonds affording new insight into the chemical properties of terminal nitride, carbide, and phosphide linkages.
A related effort has been the development of methods for the generation of unsaturated nitrogen-and phosphorus-containing ligands and reactive intermediates, ultimately providing access to AsP3 and organo-phosphorus compounds efficiently starting from P4, and organic nitriles starting from N2. Another line of inquiry seeks a convergence of anion receptor chemistry, small molecule (O2, NO) redox, and coordination chemistry.
Kit has had the immense pleasure and honor of working with many enthusiastic and talented research group members and collaborators who deserve credit in the greatest measure for the success of the projects.
Honors and Awards
Kit’s work has been recognized with Harvard University’s E. Bright Wilson Prize, the Phi Lambda Upsilon National Fresenius Award, a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry, the NSF Alan T. Waterman Award, the TR100 Award, an Alexander von Humboldt Research Award, the Dannie-Heineman Preis of the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, the ACS F. Albert Cotton Award in Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry, and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences. Kit was also selected as the inaugural winner of the Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship Award, and a recipient of the RSC Ludwig Mond Award. Kit has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is a corresponding member of the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, and a Fellow of the Texas A&M Institute for Advanced Study.