Please join us for another MAS webinar! Donovan Leonard, Senior Technical Staff Member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and long-time MAS member will talk about RNA Mediation of Pd Metal-Metal Bonds and his role in correcting the scientific record.

The live webinar will consist of a 50-minute presentation, followed by a Q&A. The webinar is free but requires a registration.

When: September 22, 2020 at 2 p.m. EDT.


Webinar description: Microscopy is often a highly collaborative endeavor and the microscopist may work with researchers in fields outside of their own.  Occasionally, the scientific vocabulary is different and technical details of samples for microscopy and microanalysis obscure, yet the common goal of discovery and gaining new knowledge are motivations to collaborate.

For this webinar, I will present data [1-4] and personal commentary on a case of mistaken microscopy involving SEM, S/TEM, SAED, EDS, EELS, and control experiments that resulted in an NSF Office of Inspector General investigation and ended with an editorial retraction from Science Magazine [5] of an original paper titled “RNA-mediated metal-metal bond formation in the synthesis of hexagonal palladium nanoparticles”[6].

In short, control experiments showed RNA played no role in producing hexagonal platelets reported as Pd metal[6]. Instead, indexed SAED proved molecular crystals of the precursor Pd2DBA3, used in the original claim of RNA mediation [6], was precipitating out of solution and occurred with or without the presence of RNA[1].

The presentation will conclude with comments on what role, for me as a graduate student, the Microanalysis Society (MAS) played in mentorship and free exchange of material characterization expertise.

[1] Franzen, Stefan, Marta Cerruti, Donovan N. Leonard, and Gerd Duscher. Journal of the American Chemical Society 129, 15340 (2007).
[2] Leonard, Donovan N., Marta Cerruti, Gerd Duscher, and Stefan Franzen. Langmuir 24, 7803 (2008).
[3] Leonard, D. N., and S. Franzen. The Journal of Physical Chemistry C 113, 12706 (2009).
[4] Franzen, Stefan. Journal of Chemical Education 88, 619(2011).
[5] M. McNutt, Science 351, 569 (2016).
[6] L.A. Gugliotti, D.L. Feldheim, B.E. Eaton, Science 304, 850 (2004).
[7]; Well written News & Observer 3 part series on RNA mediation retraction (a digestible alternative to scientific manuscripts [1]-[4], [6]) with details put into context and chronological order.


DONOVAN N. LEONARD has been a member of MAS and MSA since 1998.  Donovan is currently a Senior Technical Staff Member in the Materials Science & Technology Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

He received his Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering from North Carolina State University in 2002 and joined ORNL in 2007.  Before ORNL, he was tenure-track faculty in the Physics & Astronomy Dept. of Appalachian State University and had worked for IBM in microelectronics packaging applications.

His research now involves the daily application of advanced microscopy and microanalysis methods to energy-related materials at length scales from the atomic level to the macro scale. More specifically, aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) and electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) of quantum materials in addition to EPMA/WDS, EBSD and EDS analysis of materials critical for vehicle lightweighting, fossil energy and advanced manufacturing applications.