Since the establishment of the UIC Chemistry Department, in 1965, the Organic Division has steadily achieved national and international recognition for both the quality of its research program and its commitment to education at the undergraduate and graduate level. Six principle investigators together with approximately 50 graduate students are currently funded by six NIH and two NSF grants, which provide substantial support for a broad range of research activities. The faculty of the Organic Division at UIC also has a proven track record of recruiting, training and mentoring undergraduate researchers.
The research interests of our division run the gamut from physical organic chemistry to virology. For example, the group of Leslie Aldrich investigates complex biological phenomena using novel small-molecule probes derived from diversity-oriented synthesis. They develop methods to access synthetic “unnatural product” scaffolds that are reminiscent of biologically active natural products. They also perform high-throughput screening to identify small molecules that modulate complex biological pathways and explore cellular processes that are important in human health using newly discovered small-molecule probes, with the ultimate goal of discovering novel therapeutic strategies for treating diseases.
Laura Anderson is interested in discovering new pericyclic transformations involving carbonyl ylides, metal-heteroatom multiple bonds, and sigmatropic rearrangements related to the Fischer-Indole synthesis. Laura's goal in this regard, is to design new methods to provide practical solutions to general problems using both physical organic and organometallic mechanistic studies.
The research program in the Ayitou group relies on established paradigms in organic chemistry, photochemistry and photophysics to devise novel organic light-harvesting materials. Importantly, we employ our home-made organic materials for light (solar energy) modulation/transformation to achieve non-linear photochemical upconversion and chain reactions. At the fundamental and practical levels, we also make use of steady-state absorption & emission spectroscopy and time-resolved ultrafast photophysical methods as well as computational tools to unravel the photo-behaviors of our molecular systems and the dynamic/kinetic of light-induced chemical transformations or molecular interactions of our interest.
The Glusac group studies photocatalytic and electrocatalytic processes relevant to energy storage applications. Particular emphasis is placed on the incorporation of metal-free catalysis, where the catalytic motifs are incorporated into conductive carbon-based platforms (graphene quantum dots and nanoribbons). The photochemical processes are studied using ultrafast pump-probe laser spectroscopy, while the electrochemical processes are studied using standard voltammetric and potentiostatic methods.
Daesung Lee's group also explores the reactivity of transition metals to discover new reactions and is targeting the development of stereoselective enyne metathesis, metallotropic [1,3]-shift, the ruthenium-catalyzed Alder-ene reaction, and electrophilic transition metal carbenoids. Daesung also continues to show case these methods in the total synthesis of complex, biologically active natural products.
Transition metal-mediated processes are also the focus of Tom Driver's research, which is directed towards the development of new methods that increase the structural complexity of readily available substrates. Tom and his group are currently interested in the discovery of new transition metal-mediated reactions, which transform C-H bonds into C-N bonds using azide starting materials. They believe that studying the mechanisms of these transformations will enable the development of new methodology.
Duncan Wardrop's group is focused on the development of new strategies and methods for the efficient synthesis of highly functionalized natural products and compounds with useful pharmacological properties. Areas of interest include the chemistry of hypervalent iodine, nitrenium ions and other electron-deficient divalent reactive intermediates as well as the development of antiviral agents to combat the Ebola virus. Current synthetic targets of the Wardrop group include the alkaloids australine, broussonetine G, eudistomin-K sulfoxide and catharanthine.