Eric J. Werner


Eric J. Werner

Assistant Professor of Chemistry
    • 2002 B.S. in Chemistry with Highest Honors, University of Florida; Mentor: Professor Michael J. Scott
    • 2007 Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley; Mentor: Professor Kenneth N. Raymond

Research Interests

Research in Assistant Professor Werner’s lab focuses on the synthesis of new inorganic molecules for biomedical assay and imaging applications. The compounds of interest contain lanthanide metal ions encapsulated by organic molecules which enable incorporation into biological systems. One project involves the study of compounds containing the gadolinium(III) ion (Gd3+) that show potential as novel contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The main focus of this project involves the synthesis and characterization of novel organic ligands and Gd3+ complexes, the study of the proton T1 relaxation rate enhancement, and assessment of thermodynamic chelate stability. Students working in this area perform much of the synthetic and preliminary research here at UT while also having the opportunity to conduct additional studies via off-campus collaborations with some of the leading world experts in the area of MRI contrast agent development.

Werner Research Page
Adapted from: Runge, V. M. “Intraveneous Contrast Media” in Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Vol. 1; Partain, C. C., et al., Eds. W. B. Saunders Co.: Philadelphia, 1988, p 827.

In addition to the synthesis and study of Gd-based MRI probes, complexes of some of the other lanthanide ions (e.g. Eu3+ and Tb3+) are currently being evaluated with regard to their luminescent properties. Benefits of using lanthanides for luminescent imaging or sensing applications include their relatively long luminescence decay lifetimes, sharp emission bands and large Stokes shifts of the sensitized emission making these ions ideal as probes under biologically relevant conditions. This study focuses on the synthesis of novel macrocyclic lanthanide complexes as well as exploration of their unique luminescence properties. In addition to these fundamental studies, current collaborative extensions of the work involve the encapsulation of the small molecule chelates within silica-based nanoparticles. The combination of the unique photophysical properties of the lanthanides with the well-known chemistry and diverse applicability of silica nanoparticles may yield highly emissive materials for use in a variety of areas including biomedical imaging.

Eu complex Werner
Solution of a Eu complex excited by UV light (left) and the same complex encapsulated by silica nanoparticles illuminated under identical conditions (right).

Undergraduate Research in My Lab

Tavya Benjamin
Undergraduate student Tavya Benjamin synthesizing a new macrocyclic Eu3+ complex for luminescent sensor applications.

Chemistry is a hands-on, experimental science. The time students spend in the classroom learning about chemistry is essential in providing necessary theory and background; it is in the research lab where students come full circle by putting this knowledge into action. In my lab, students are given the opportunity (and the great challenge!) of conducting their own original research projects, applying what they have learned through their coursework as well as acquiring new knowledge and skills in a relevant area of modern chemical research. In carrying out the work noted above, students are involved in every aspect of the project: from the design of new molecules or novel assays to the final presentation and publication of the more promising results. Also, due to the interdisciplinary nature of the work, students are exposed to a variety of areas including inorganic and organic synthesis in preparing novel lanthanide complexes, analytical chemistry in performing various assays and through characterization of all new molecules synthesized, physical chemistry in rationalizing the magnetic and photophysical properties of the imaging agents and biomedical research in exploring potential applications. Beyond learning basic synthetic techniques, students routinely have full access to a number of sophisticated instruments on campus including NMR (300 MHz), FTIR, UV-Vis and fluorescence spectrometers.

If you are interested in learning more or would like to discuss research opportunities in Assistant Professor Eric Werner's lab, please contact him at or stop by his office.

Relevant Publications (undergraduate student coauthors' names are in bold type):

Makhinson, B.; Duncan, A. K.; Elam, A. R.; de Bettencourt-Dias, A.; Medley, C. D.; Smith, J. E.; Werner, E. J. “Turning on Lanthanide Luminescence via Nanoencapsulation.” Inorg. Chem. 2013, 52, 6311–6318.

Werner, E. J.; Benjamin, T. G. R. “Molecular Gadolinium Complexes for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.” McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science & Technology 2014; McGraw-Hill: New York, 2014.

Werner, E. J.; Botta, M.; Aime, S.; Raymond, K. N. “Effect of a Mesitylene-Based Ligand Cap on the Relaxometric Properties of Hydroxypyridonate Gd(III) MRI Contrast Agents.” Contrast Media Mol. Imaging 2009, 4, 220–229.

Werner, E. J.; Kozhukh, J.; Botta, M.; Moore, E. G.; Avedano, S.; Aime, S.; Raymond, K. N. “1,2-Hydroxypyridonate/Terephthalamide Complexes of Gadolinium(III): Synthesis, Stability, Relaxivity, and Water Exchange Properties.” Inorg. Chem. 2009, 48, 277–286.

Werner, E. J.; Datta, A.; Jocher, C. J.; Raymond, K. N. “High-Relaxivity MRI Contrast Agents: Where Coordination Chemistry Meets Medical Imaging.” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2008, 47, 8568–8580.

Werner, E. J.; Avedano, S.; Botta, M.; Hay, B. P.; Moore, E. G.; Aime, S.; Raymond, K. N. “Highly Soluble Tris-hydroxypyridonate Gd(III) Complexes with Increased Hydration Number, Fast Water Exchange, Slow Electronic Relaxation, and High Relaxivity.” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2007, 129, 1870–1871.


Recent off-campus presentations (undergraduate student coauthors' names are in bold type):Werner, E.J.; Botta, M.; Madsen, M.P.; Johnson, K.R. "Schiff Base/Pyridine Ligands for Lanthanide Ion Complexation." 245th ACS National Meeting, New Orleans, LA, April 2013.

Benjamin, T.G.R.; Werner, E.J. "Luminescent Europium(III) Complexes for Anion Sensing." 245th ACS National Meeting, New Orleans, LA, April 2013.

Peruzzi, M.T.; Werner, E.J.; Biros, S.M. "Synthesis of Tripodal CMPO Compounds for Heavy Metal Chelation." 245th ACS  National Meeting, New Orleans, LA, April 2013.

Werner, E. J.; Smith, J.E.; de Bettencourt-Dias, A.; Benjamin, T.G.R. "Macrocyclic Lanthanide Complexes for Luminescent Sensor Applications." 243rd ACS National Meeting, San Diego, CA, March 2012.

Werner, E. J.; de Bettencourt-Dias, A.; Bowers, K.T. "Development of Lumiscent Lanthanide Complexes Based on Tetraiminodiphenolate Macrocycles." 87th Florida Annual meeting and Exposition of The Florida Section of the American Chemical Society, May 2011, Palm Harbor, FL. USA.

Smith, J.E.; Werner, E.J.; Reeves, K.M.; Makhinson, B.; Duncan, A.K.; Dunn, J. "Creating Stable Lanthanide Based Luminescent Nanoparticles for Bioanalysis." Pittcon Conference & Expo 2011, Atlanta, GA.