Dr Erin Leitao was born and raised on Vancouver Island in Canada. She obtained her BSc degree in Chemistry from the University of Victoria (Canada) in 2006 and received her PhD degree from the University of Calgary (Canada) in 2011 with Prof Warren Piers. Following her graduate studies, she was a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Prof Ian Manners at the University of Bristol (UK). Erin has since started an academic position at the University of Auckland as a Lecturer (Dec 2015) where she started the Leitao Lab. In 2016 Erin was the New Zealand recipient of the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Fellowship and was awarded a Dean’s Teaching Excellence award in 2017. She is an Associate Investigator in the MacDiarmid Institute. In early 2018 she was promoted to Senior Lecturer.
The Leitao lab’s overarching research goals are two-fold, to make new materials that do not rely on raw materials derived from petroleum but instead rely mostly on raw materials derived from other sources (e.g. sand, rocks) and to better understand how inorganic atoms can be connected using catalysis.
Carbon-based polymers are ubiquitous. From textiles, to electronics, to packaging, to banknotes, to structural materials, we see and use these daily. Substituting the carbon elements with other earth abundant main-group elements, such as silicon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur or oxygen, will create materials with modified properties (e.g. strength, flexibility, conductivity, solubility, etc.) and will lead to unrealized applications. The Leitao lab is interested in exploring ways to make new inorganic polymers that do not result in the elimination of toxic by-products or large amounts of salt. In order to do this, our group investigates ways to make new building blocks and uses catalysts to link them together. We also interrogate the intimate details of how the bonds between main-group elements form.