A pinboard by
Nicholas Race

Postdoctoral researcher, University of Utah


Synthesis of useful, complex molecules through the combination of two simple starting materials

Alcohols are functional groups found in a wide variety of molecules, including compounds found in nature and man-made drugs. New methods that facilitate the synthesis of alcohols from simple starting materials are, therefore, important for synthetic chemists. At the University of Utah I have developed a chemical reaction that forms of alcohol derivatives through the combination of two simple and readily accessible starting materials, namely an oxygen nucleophile (e.g., peroxide) and an alkene. Both of these components are essentially feedstock chemicals, meaning they are cheap and easy to access.

The reaction is controlled by a palladium catalyst, in the absence of which no reaction occurs at all. The palladium combines the two starting materials in a selective manner such that a large excess of one specific alcohol structure is formed over all the other possibilities.

This method will allow other synthetic chemists to predictably and easily install an alcohol derivative in their molecule of choice. Ultimately, I hope the work I have been doing will be used by synthetic chemists (e.g., medicinal chemists in pharmaceutical companies) for the synthesis of new potential drug candidates.