Professor of Chemistry and Chairperson
The interrelated aspects of our research program include introducing new chemical transformations, building complex molecules with these new reactions, and using these compounds to study cellular function. The development of new reactions continues to be an important endeavor in organic chemistry. Our efforts have been directed toward discovering better ways of constructing medium-ring-containing compounds. Using novel transformations that build molecular complexity rapidly have allowed for the efficient construction of seven- and eight-membered ring, containing natural products. Moreover, we have also investigated whether there are new ways to discover new reactions. In this regard, we have found that "rational selection" protocols using combinatorial techniques can provide very attractive catalytic solutions to longstanding chemical problems.
Employing new reactions in the total synthesis of challenging molecules is not only important for organic chemistry; it also allows us to contribute to biological chemistry. Building molecules with unique or unusual biological activities can offer powerful new tools for studying biological systems. For example, we have used the synthesis ofilimaquinone, a marine sponge metabolite, to uncover previously unknown functional aspects of the Golgi apparatus. Similarly, other natural products currently under study will be used to provide a better understanding of the biological systems they influence.
Combining organic chemistry with select techniques in protein chemistry and molecular and cellular biology yields a powerful multidisciplinary approach for advancing our understanding of various important scientific issues.