University of Colorado - 1986
University of Nevada, Las Vegas - 1981
University of Utah 1987-1989 (NIH Postdoctoral Fellow 1988-1989)
Baylor University - 1989
Research in my group centers mostly around ways to improve the synthesis and analysis of organic compounds. One aspect of this is the preparation of new ligands for transition metal catalysts. The ligands we have developed fall into three broad categories:
The best reason to pursue graduate studies is that you love the sense of discovery that chemistry offers. I tend to stress careful lab technique, often necessary for the air-sensitive chemistry we do, but also important in many contexts. My students become very familiar with NMR (I teach our graduate course in Organic Spectroscopy) and capillary GC and GC-MS. We also do a lot of preparative liquid chromatography (including radial), and even some distillation (almost a lost art in modern organic chemistry). I do some lab work myself, which keeps me in touch with my students’ needs and resources. I try hard to provide an excellent level of supplies (glassware, etc.) and specialized equipment to make lab work enjoyable rather than frustrating.
My research program is generally directed toward the development of new methods for the practical synthesis of chiral organic molecules in high optical purity. One goal is to use inexpensive, naturally occurring chiral materials in the preparation of new organometallic reagents and/or catalysts for asymmetric organic synthesis. Where possible, these new reagents are rationally designed, and this may require structural modification of existing chiral molecules. I am pursuing the development of a new class of C2-chiral pyrazoylborate ligands, which may allow the development of new transition-metal catalysts for asymmetric synthesis. A variety of related ligands are under investigation. In addition, we occasionally develop new methods for the analysis of enantiomeric purities (see Tetrahedron Letters 1997, 38, 7717-20).
We have recently identified a remarkably simple organic compound that can immobilize nonpolar organic solvents as transparent gels at low concentrations (~0.5-1 wt. %). We have characterized this unusual aggregation behavior using a variety of techniques, including small-angle neutron scattering (see: J. Chem. Soc., Faraday Transactions 1998, 94, 2173-2179; and Langmuir 1998, 14, 3991-3998). Several derivatives have been synthesized and evaluated, resulting in two US patents. Studies to define the aggregation at a molecular level are in progress.
I have found that most synthetic projects benefit from appropriate application of physical (kinetics, thermodynamics) and structural (NMR, X-ray) studies. Solution NMR is a powerful tool, especially in the context of multinuclear and/or variable temperature (VT) operation. In general, I anticipate that research projects such as those discussed above will possess significant physical/structural components. There may be occasional projects which are almost entirely physical, such as a systematic study of electronic effects or a VT/NMR evaluation of fluxionality in a series of molecules. In addition, high-resolution gas chromatography is used extensively in my lab, and we often develop new applications of this technique.