"Applying conventional disciplines of chemistry to current and future issues."

Organic Synthesis, Characterization, & Catalysis

occurence of isomerism diagram Paul Buonora's group studies the mechanism based development of new methods and reagents for the synthesis of fine chemical and pharmacological organic molecules. Target molecular systems include nitrogen and oxygen heterocycles possessing chirality. Our synthetic methods work places a premium on developing economically and environmentally responsible chemistries. Our current studies utilize microwave and organocatalytic methods and are focused on developing asymmetric routes to dihydropyridazines and dihydrophthalazinones and the development of new low cost reagents for the synthesis of carbohydrate and pseudo-carbohydrate targets.

organometallic compound diagram Lijuan Li's research focuses on preparing organometallic or transition metal complexes which exhibit catalytic activities. For instance, they prepared some small Fe complexes which mimic the function of Methane Monooxygenase (MMO) by showing highly catalytic activity of C-H oxidation. They identified the key structure required and characterized them by a variety of spectroscopic techniques, magnetic measurements, and X-ray crystallography.

chemical reaction diagram Eric Marinez's group focuses on molecular recognition events that proceed through hydrogen-bonding since they often provide the molecular "Velcro" to organize molecules in well-defined chemical environments and the proton source required for catalysis by enzymes. Critical to life processes, our primary research interest involves understanding the molecular recognition event of biological ions via hydrogen bonding by understanding the thermodynamic role conformation and solvation factor on these events. Future studies of these projects will include the ability of our receptors to chaperone ions into cell membranes and to orient molecular ions into well-defined orientations so that they can be used as a chiral, preorganizing unit to conduct reactions with high selectivity.

chemical reaction diagram Ken Nakayama's group has been involved in the development of new synthetic methods of biologically important organophosphorus compounds. For example, alpha-aminophosphonates are a very important class of compounds since they can be employed as alpha-amino acid mimics and enzyme inhibitors. Recently, our group has developed a useful, solvent-free synthetic method of preparing alpha-aminophosphonates using tin(II) catalysts (Kabachnik-Fields reaction). We have determined that tin(II) halides are particularly effective catalysts for this reaction. We are currently investigating asymmetric variations of this reaction.

enzymology Jason Schwans' research group is interested in understanding the energetic and structural basis of enzyme catalysis. Knowledge of how enzymes work is crucial to understanding biological function and may aid the design and application of enzymes and enzyme inhibitors that act as drugs. We are employing a battery of functional and structural approaches including atomic level mutagenesis using unnatural amino acids and nucleotides and x-ray crystallography. Specific topics being studied include: i) investigation of cholesterol oxidase to address how general acid/base catalysis contributes to enzymatic rate enhancement when enzymes use the same chemical groups as small molecule catalysts; and ii) investigation of RNase A to address the catalytic contribution from interconnected catalytic strategies.

preparation of propanol from allyl alcohol

Young Shon's group synthesizes ligand-capped metal nanoparticles that are active catalysts for regio-, chemo-, and/or stereo-selective organic reactions, with a strong emphasis on controlling the structure and functionality of surrounding thiolate ligands. Recently, our group discovered a synthetic method to generate stable and isolable Pd nanoparticles capped with a low density of alkanethiolate ligands. The Pd nanoparticles synthesized using Bunte salts as a source of protecting ligands exhibit a high selectivity for isomerization of allyl alcohols to the corresponding carbonyl compounds. With further efforts in controlling the size and/or composition of nanoparticle core (Au, Ag, Pt, and Ir) and the structure and/or functionality of surrounding ligands, the catalytic activity and selectivity of metal nanoparticles can be further optimized for many reactions including the isomerization/hydrogenation of unsaturated alcohols, alkenes, alkynes, and carbonyls and the reduction of unsaturated nitrogen-containing compounds. The produced ligand-capped metal nanoparticles can also serve as a stable model "micellar" and/or "metalloenzyme" system with an active catalytic center in aqueous environment.