Dr Erin Michaela Leitao

BSc (Victoria, Canada), PhD (Calgary, Canada), Postdoctoral Fellowship (Bristol, UK)

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Senior Lecturer


2018-Present               Senior LecturerUniversity of Auckland, NZ

2015-2018                   Lecturer, University of Auckland, NZ

2012-2015                   Marie Curie Research Fellow, University of Bristol, UK with Prof. Ian Manners

2011-2012                   Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Bristol, UK with Prof. Ian Manners

2006-2011                   PhD in Inorganic Chemistry, University of Calgary, Canada with Prof. Warren Piers

2001-2006                   BSc in Chemistry, University of Victoria, Canada final project with Prof. Scott McIndoe

Research | Current

The Synthesis of Functional Inorganic Molecules and Polymers using Catalysis: In sharp contrast to the development of catalytic routes to new C-C or C-E (E = p-block element) bonds, catalytic routes to homonuclear (E-E) and heteronuclear (E-E’) main-group compounds are in their relative infancy. Currently the main synthetic routes to molecules and polymers of the p-block are based on salt metathesis, reductive coupling, and nucleophilic substitution, often using harsh reaction conditions, highly-reactive hazardous reagents, and yielding toxic byproducts. More recently, catalytic and stoichiometric dehydrocoupling and oxidative cross coupling methods have been gaining momentum and present opportunities to synthesize new molecules and materials that were not easily accessed by conventional methods.

The Design of New Organocatalysts for Small Molecule Activation: There is no disputing that homogeneous transition metal based catalysis is an efficient, economical and elegant tool for chemical synthesis.  However, there are some applications (e.g. in medicine, electronic devices) where the presence of trace amounts of metals remains problematic. Combining recent advances in the development of metal-free molecules (e.g. N-Heterocyclic Carbenes, Frustrated Lewis Pairs) available for small molecule activation with the required features of a transition-metal catalyst, the development of a new class of organocatalysts of an ambiphilic nature is pursued. 

For more information see the Leitao group webpage

Teaching | Current

CHEM 120 - Chemistry of the Material World

CHEM 320 - Design and Reactivity of Inorganic Compounds

CHEM 720 - Advanced Inorganic Chemistry

CHEM 750 - Advanced Topics in Chemistry 1 & 2

Postgraduate supervision

The Leitao group seeks motivated students who are interested in using catalysts to form main-group molecules and materials and/or designing main-group catalysts. Researchers will become proficient in the use of inert atmospheres and will likely use a variety of analytical techniques such as (variable temperature) NMR Spectroscopy, IR and UV-Vis Spectroscopies, Mass Spectrometry (including GC-MS), X-Ray diffraction, EA, GPC. Although mostly synthetic, many projects will have a mechanistic aspect, which may involve kinetic studies, isotopic labelling, and/or the synthesis of potential intermediates and model complexes.  For more information on individual research projects please email Erin. 


2016 L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Fellowship 

Committees/Professional groups/Services

New Zealand Institute of Chemistry

Faculty of Science Equity Committee

Science Scholar Mentor

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Boott, C. E., Leitao, E. M., Hayward, D. W., Laine, R. F., Mahou, P., Guerin, G., ... Whittell, G. R. (2018). Probing the Growth Kinetics for the Formation of Uniform 1D Block Copolymer Nanoparticles by Living Crystallization-Driven Self-Assembly. ACS NANO, 12 (9), 8920-8933. 10.1021/acsnano.8b01353
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/45519
  • Boott, C. E., Laine, R. F., Mahou, P., Finnegan, J. R., Leitao, E. M., Webb, S. E. D., ... Manners, I. (2015). In Situ Visualization of Block Copolymer Self-Assembly in Organic Media by Super-Resolution Fluorescence Microscopy. Chemistry - A European Journal, 21 (51), 18539-18542. 10.1002/chem.201504100
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/30272
  • Stubbs, N. E., Schäfer A, Robertson, A. P. M., Leitao, E. M., Jurca, T., Sparkes, H. A., ... Manners, I. (2015). B-Methylated Amine-Boranes: Substituent Redistribution, Catalytic Dehydrogenation, and Facile Metal-Free Hydrogen Transfer Reactions. Inorganic chemistry, 54 (22), 10878-10889. 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.5b01946
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/30684
  • Leitao, E. M., & Manners, I. (2015). Rehydrogenation of aminoboranes to amine-boranes using H₂O: Reaction scope and mechanism. European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry, 2015 (13), 2199-2205. 10.1002/ejic.201500117
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/30690
  • Johnson, H. C., Leitao, E. M., Whittell, G. R., Manners, I., Lloyd-Jones, G. C., & Weller, A. S. (2014). Mechanistic studies of the dehydrocoupling and dehydropolymerization of amine-boranes using a [Rh(Xantphos)]⁺ catalyst. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 136 (25), 9078-9093. 10.1021/ja503335g
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/30692
  • Leitao, E. M., Piers, W. E., & Parvez, M. (2013). A thermally robust ruthenium phosphonium alkylidene catalyst — the effect of more bulky N -heterocyclic carbene ligands on catalyst performance in olefin metathesis reactions. Canadian Journal of Chemistry, 91 (10), 935-942. 10.1139/cjc-2013-0156
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/30698
  • Stubbs, N. E., Jurca, T., Leitao, E. M., Woodall, C. H., & Manners, I. (2013). Polyaminoborane main chain scission using N-heterocyclic carbenes; formation of donor-stabilised monomeric aminoboranes. Chemical Communications, 49 (80), 9098-9100. 10.1039/C3CC44373F
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/30728
  • Leitao, E. M., Jurca, T., & Manners, I. (2013). Catalysis in service of main group chemistry offers a versatile approach to p-block molecules and materials. Nature Chemistry, 5 (10), 817-829. 10.1038/nchem.1749
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/30695

Contact details

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 10, Room 1063
New Zealand

Web links