Sonny Lee

Sonny Lee
Associate Professor
Location: C2 382
Phone: 519-888-4567 x37501


Sonny Lee's research efforts focus on challenging problems in transition element inorganic chemistry. His studies involve the synthesis of new compounds and compound classes, and the characterization of their physical and chemical properties by a broad array of methods.

Topics of fundamental chemical and/or biological interest form the basis for Sonny Lee's investigations. His primary research area is directed toward understanding molecular aspects of biological nitrogen fixation. These studies have led to the development of synthetic chemistry associated with clusters of weak-field iron and anionic nitrogen ligation; the discovery within these clusters of iron centers with rare or unprecedented features, e.g., high-valent +4 oxidation states, 3-coordinate metal environments and terminal imide ligation; and the demonstration of physicochemical analogies that relate iron-nitrogen systems to biological iron-sulfur chemistry.

Research Interests

  • Bioinorganic chemistry
  • Nitrogenase
  • Clusters
  • Synthetic analogues
  • Transition metals
  • Synthetic Chemistry and Catalysis


  • 1993 Ph.D., Chemistry, Harvard University, USA
  • 1987 B.Sc., Chemistry, California Institute of Technology, USA


  • 2000-04 National Science Foundation CAREER Award (USA)
  • 1997-99 Beckman Foundation Young Investigator
  • 1993-95 National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 1987-90 National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship


  • 2014-present, Safety Committee, Faculty Representative
  • 2012-present, Graduate Advisory Committee, Faculty Representative
  • 2012-present, Chemistry Awards Committee, Faculty Representative
  • 2006-present, Undergraduate Curriculum / Affairs Committee, Faculty Representative
  • 2008-10 Science Faculty Council, Department Representative
  • 2009 Gaussian09 Funding, Licensing, and Distribution

Professional Associations

  • Member, American Chemical Society
  • Member, Canadian Society for Chemistry


  • CHEM 212 - Structure and Bonding
    • Taught in 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024
  • CHEM 310 - Transition Element Compounds and Inorganic Materials
    • Taught in 2019

* Only courses taught in the past 5 years are displayed.

Selected/Recent Publications

  • Benjamin E. Van Kuiken, Anselm W. Hahn, Brahamjot Nayyar, Christine E> Schiewer, Sonny C. Lee, Franc Meyer, Thomas Weyhermüller, Alessandro Nicolau, Yi-Tao Cui, Jun Miyawaki, Yoshihisa Harada, and Serena DeBeer, "Electronic Spectra of Iron−Sulfur Complexes Measured by 2p3d RIXS Spectroscopy", Inorg. Chem. 2018, 57, 7355-7361.
  • Joanna K. Kowalska, Brahamjot Nayyar, Julian A. Rees, Christine E. Schiewer, Sonny C. Lee, Julie A. Kovacs, Franc Meyer, Thomas Wehermüller, Edwige Otero, and Serena DeBeer, "Iron L2,3-Edge X-ray Absorption and X-ray Magnetic Circular Dichroism Studies of Molecular Iron Complexes with Relevance to the FeMoco and FeVco Active Sites of Nitrogenase", Inorg. Chem. 2017, 56, 8147-8158.
  • Christopher J. Pollock, Lay Ling Tan, Wei Zhang, Kyle M. Lancaster, Sonny C. Lee*, and Serena DeBeer*, “Light Atom Influences on the Electronic Structures of Iron-Sulfur Clusters”, Inorg. Chem. 2014, 53, 2591-2597.
  • Sonny C. Lee*, Wayne Lo, and R. H. Holm*, “Developments in the Biomimetic Chemistry of Cubane-Type and Higher Nuclearity Iron-Sulfur Clusters”, Chem. Rev. 2014, 114, 3579-3600.
  • Lay Ling Tan, R. H. Holm*, and Sonny C. Lee*, “Structural Analysis of Cubane-Type Iron Clusters”, Polyhedron 2013, 58, 206-217.
  • Xu-Dong Chen, Wei Zhang, Jeremiah S. Duncan, and Sonny C. Lee*, “Iron-Amide-Sulfide and Iron-Imide-Sulfide Clusters : Heteroligated Core Environments Relevant to the Nitrogenase FeMo Cofactor ”, Inorg. Chem. 2012, 51, 12891-12904.
  • Xu-Dong Chen, Jeremiah S. Duncan, Atul K. Verma, and Sonny C. Lee*, “Selective Syntheses of Iron-Imide-Sulfide Cubanes, Including a Partial Representation of the Fe-S-X Environment in the FeMo-Cofactor”, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 15884-15886.