Mark S. WorkentinMark S. Workentin
Ph.D., McMaster University, 1992
B.Sc., Western Ontario, 1988
Office: Chemistry Building 223
Lab: Chemistry Building 203, 225
Phone: (519) 661-2111 Ext 86319

Research Group Homepage

Materials Chemistry, Organic Electrochemistry, Organic Photochemistry, Physical Organic Chemistry


  • University Faculty Scholar
  • Premier's Research Excellence Award
  • Western Marilyn Robinson Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • Alumni Western, Bank of Nova Scotia, University Students' Council Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (1997-98, 2001-02)
  • Canadian National Congress-International Union Pure and Applied Chemistry (CNC-IUPAC) Award
  • Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations Award for Excellence in University Teaching
  • USC Teaching Honour Roll (2001-2005)


Current Research Programs:

Physical Organic Chemistry of Materials: From Probing Structure-Reactivity to Demonstrating Application

The aim of this program is to address fundamental aspects of interfacial organic reactions and utilize the knowledge gained to design and synthesize new materials and to demonstrate potential applications. Reactions of molecules in solution are supported by a well developed intuition and set of methods from physical organic chemistry, but the reactions of molecules at the solid-liquid or solid-solid interface are not as well understood because they often behave in ways that are very different from those in solution. To investigate these differences, we design and synthesize photochemically, electrochemically and thermally responsive organic molecular systems to act as probes of the interactions in the interfacial environment of a variety of monolayer surfaces and to provide new platforms for selective surface modifications to build new architectures.  A cornerstone of our efforts focuses on metal surfaces including self-assembled 2D monolayers and monolayer protected gold nanoparticles, and we are extending these reactions to investigate reactivity on other metallic nanoparticles and other relevant material solid surfaces.

The importance and motivation behind these studies lies in the recognition of the utility of organic thin films on functional materials in the development of molecular and biomolecular electronics, sensors, catalysis and other applications.  Currently, progress towards application is not always based on clear understanding of the fundamental factors that control surface reactivity and molecular interactions in these unique assemblies.  We are addressing these issues by examining photoinduced, redox activated and thermal reactivity in terms of chemical properties (structure-reactivity relationships, conformational and orientation mobility) and physical properties (structure, order-disorder phenomena, reaction conditions).  In many cases the photoactive or electroactive moiety also serves as an analytical sensor/reporter of the chemistry.  A complete understanding of these factors is essential for the rationale design and control of any modified surface for a particular application.  

The research in the group is inherently multidisciplinary and students gain experience with the principles and techniques used in the areas of physical-organic chemistry, organic electrochemistry, organic photochemistry and photophysics and aspects of materials chemistry. During the course of any project a student will also gain some experience in synthetic chemistry and become experts in more traditional analytical and spectroscopic techniques, such as NMR spectroscopy, IR spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, Uv-vis absorption spectroscopy, Mass spectroscopy, gas chromatography, HPLC, etc. Additionally, experience will be gained in materials characterization methods including TEM, TGA, DSC, surface IR etc.


Selected Publications:

P. Gobbo, S. Ghiassian, M. Hesari, K. G. Stamplecoskie, N. Kazemi-Zanjani, F. Lagugne-Labarthet, M.S. Workentin,*  J. Mater. Chem2012, DOI:10.1039/C2JM34984A,  “Electrochemistry of Robust Gold Nanoparticle-Glassy Carbon Hybrids Generated Using a Patternable Photochemical Approach” J. Mater. Chem2012, Advance Article DOI: 10.1039/C2JM34984A.

P. Gobbo, M.S. Workentin Improved Methodology for the Preparation of Water-Soluble Maleimide-Functionalized Small Gold Nanoparticles, Langmuir 2012, 28 (33), 12357–12363.

S. Ghiassian, H. Ismaili, B. D. W. Lubbock, J. W. Dube, P. J. Ragogna*, M. S. Workentin* “Photoinduced Carbene Generation from Diazirine Modified Task Specific Phosphonium Ionic Liquids to Prepare Robust Hydrophobic Coatings” Langmuir 2012, 28 (33), 12326–12333. 

K. E. Snell, H. Ismaili, and M. S. Workentin* “Preparation of Gold Nanoparticle (AuNP) Hybrids with Carbonaceous Materials via Photoactivated Nitrene Chemistry”, Chem. Phys. Chem. 2012, 13, 3179-3184.

K. Hartlen, H. Ismaili, J. Zhu and Mark S. Workentin* “Michael Addition Reactions for the Modification of Gold Nanoparticles Facilitated by Hyperbaric Conditions” Langmuir, 2012, 28(1):864-71.

Western provides the best student experience among Canada's leading research-intensive universities.