Lisa McElwee-White

Lisa McElwee-White’s (University of Florida) research interests are based in the mechanistic chemistry of organometallic complexes. Her work has included contributions to organometallic photochemistry, development of synthetic methodology and electrocatalysis. Current projects focus on mechanism-based design of precursors for deposition of thin films and nanostructures by chemical vapor deposition, electron beam induced deposition and surface plasmon mediated chemical deposition. She has served the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry as both Division Chair and National Program Chair, and has also been a member of the Executive Committee for the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry.

Dale Poulter

Dale Poulter (University of Utah) is Editor in Chief of The Journal of Organic Chemistry and a noted researcher. Interested in problems at the interface between organic chemistry and biochemistry, Poulter examines reactions catalyzed by enzymes in the isoprene biosynthetic pathway and structure-function relationships in peptides and proteins. In this research, he isolate genes for the enzymes under investigation and construct plasmids for overexpression of the enzymes, and carries out side-directed mutagenesis on critical amino acids to elucidate their role in catalysis.

David MacMillan

David MacMillan (Princeton) is studying new concepts in synthetic organic chemistry involving organocatalysis, organo-cascade catalysis, metal-mediated catalysis, and total synthesis of natural products and pharmaceuticals. He is also Director of the Merck Center for Catalysis at Princeton University.

Huw Davies

Huw M. L. Davies (Asa Griggs Candler Professor, Emory University) is the Director of the NSF Center In Selective C–H Functionalization (NSF-CCHF). His research program is highly collaborative and emphasizes the development of new enantioselective synthetic methods. His program covers design of chiral catalysts, development of new synthetic methodology, total synthesis of biologically active natural products, and development of chiral therapeutic agents. A major current theme in his group is catalytic asymmetric C–H functionalization by means of rhodium-carbenoid induced C–H insertion.

John D. Roberts

John D. Roberts (Caltech) is an icon in organic chemistry. His achievements, stretching over 60 years, include fundamental research in physical organic chemistry such as the elucidation of the structure of benzyne, to seminal studies in the use of proton, carbon and nitrogen NMR spectroscopy in organic chemistry. He many textbooks add to his stature of one of the elite in the field.

John Montgomery

John Montgomery (University of Michigan) is interested in the design and development of broadly useful synthetic transformations. His interests largely focus on catalysis by late transition metals, including projects in reaction discovery, mechanistic chemistry, and total synthesis. Recent interests have also including the development of new methods in carbohydrate chemistry and the use of biocatalytic transformations in organic synthesis. Following twelve years on the faculty at Wayne State University, he has been at the University of Michigan since 2005. He was the recipient of an ACS Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in 2001.

K.C. Nicoloau

K. C. Nicolaou (Scripps and University of California San Diego) studies the chemistry, biology, and medicine of natural and designed molecules with an emphasis on the total synthesis of some of the most intriguing molecules occurring in nature. He is also deeply committed to the education and training of a new generation of men and women in the chemical sciences, in part demonstrated by his authorship of several highly regarded books for various audiences.

Ken Houk

Ken Houk (UCLA) has devoted his career to solving problems in organic and bio-organic chemistry using theoretical and computational methods. As a corollary to his work in theory, he is involved in experimental research to test theoretical predictions and to develop new reactions, reagents, and catalysts which have been designed from theoretical investigations. Of particular interest include the understanding and design of stereoselective organic reactions and catalysts, pericyclic reaction mechanisms, gating in proteins and synthetic hosts, the origins of biological catalysis, reactive intermediates in biology and the atmosphere, and molecular devices and structures and properties of organic materials.

M.G. Finn

M.G. Finn (The Scripps Research Institute and the Georgia Institute of Technology after March 2013) and his coworkers develop chemical and biological tools for the creation of functional molecules, and make such molecules for biomedical purposes. His group has provided click chemistry methods for synthesis and bioconjugation, and has pioneered the use of viruses and virus-like particles as polyvalent agents for cell targeting, immunology, and catalysis. They also have strong interests in materials chemistry, molecular evolution, and analytical techniques that support these missions. He is most proud of being recognized as the inaugural winner of the The Scripps Research Institute Outstanding Mentor Award in 2011. He is Editor in Chief of the ACS journal Combinatorial Science.

Madeline Joullie

Madeleine Joullie’s (University of Pennsylvania) research encompasses a wide range of interests in synthetic organic chemistry including heterocyclic and medicinal chemistry. She is particularly focused on the synthesis and chemistry of five-membered heterocycles and natural products containing such units, the synthesis and chemistry of fungal metabolites, cyclopeptide alkaloids as well as the synthesis of biologically important depsipeptides, novel ninhydrins; and anti- angiogenic agents. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Marjorie Caserio

Marjorie Caserio (UCSD), co-author of the immensely important text Modern Organic Chemistry with John D. Roberts, was engaged in teaching and research at the University of California Irvine for 25 years. In 1990, she became Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at University of California San Diego. In 1995 she served as interim Chancellor at UCSD prior to retiring in 1996. She has served for many years as a consultant to the American Chemical Society on graduate education..

Mike Doyle

Michael P. Doyle (Professor, University of Maryland) is the developer of “Doyle catalysts” – chiral dirhodium carboxamidates that are the most effective catalysts for highly stereoselective intramolecular reactions of diazoacetates that include C-H insertion and cyclopropanation. The fixed stereodefined geometry of these catalysts provides access to highly enantioenriched products in metal carbene reactions and, together with their low oxidation potentials, also affords capabilities for highly selective Lewis acid catalyzed reactions and efficient chemical oxidations with high turnover numbers and high selectivities. His research has encompassed physical organic chemistry, synthetic method development, the bioinorganic chemistry of nitrogen oxides and nitrosyls, and asymmetric syntheses.

Peter Stang

Peter Stang (University of Utah) is Editor in Chief of ‘The Journal of the American Chemical Society’ and previously served as Editor in Chief of ‘The Journal of Organic Chemistry.’ His primary focus of research is molecular architecture and supramolecular chemistry via self-assembly. He also continues to study reactive unsaturated intermediates such as vinyl cations. He also has an interest in biochemistry, in particular examining tPQQ-sequestering and protease and phosphotriesterase inhibition.

Richmond Sarpong

Richmond Sarpong (University of California at Berkeley) is interested in the development of new strategies and methods for the synthesis of complex, biologically active, compounds. His research group has made notable contributions to the synthesis of alkaloid natural products and in the development of metal-mediated methods for natural product synthesis. Richmond has been recognized as a Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar and received the UC Berkeley Department of Chemistry teaching award in 2009.

Ronald Breslow

Ronald Breslow (Columbia University), a former President of the American Chemical Society, has made significant contributions to fundamental chemistry, for example, in the study of antiaromatic compounds and also bioorganic chemistry. Currently, he is trying to prepare artificial enzymes that can imitate the function of natural enzymes. Breslow is involved in the synthesis of mimics of antibodies or of biological receptor sites, for example, for modulating the activity of peptide hormones. He also has a long-standing program to develop novel compounds that can induce cells to differentiate. These have important potential in cancer treatment and are now in human trials.

Stephan Hanessian

Stephen Hanessian (University of Montreal, and the University of California, Irvine), has a wide cross-section of interests in organic, bioorganic and medicinal chemistry. His teachings of the simplification of structural and stereochemical complexity in organic synthesis as seen through the mind’s eye, and adopting the Chiron Approach, are pedagogically enlightening and practically useful. In 2012, he was the recipient of the ACS Ernest Guenther Award in Natural Products and the Richter IUPAC Medicinal Chemistry Prize.

Virginia Cornish

Virginia W. Cornish graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A. in Biochemistry in 1991, where she did undergraduate research with Professor Ronald Breslow. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry with Professor Peter Schultz at the University of California at Berkeley and then was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Biology Department at M.I.T. under the guidance of Professor Robert Sauer. Virginia joined the faculty of the Chemistry Department at Columbia in 1999, where she carries out research at the interface of chemistry and biology, and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2004 and then Professor in 2007. Her laboratory brings together modern methods in synthetic chemistry and DNA technology to expand the synthetic capabilities of living cells. Her research has resulted in 55 research publications and several patents and currently is supported by multiple grants from the NIH and NSF. Virginia has been recognized for her research by awards including an NSF Career Award (2000), a Sloan Foundation Fellowship (2003), the Protein Society Irving Sigal Young Investigator Award (2009), and the American Chemical Society Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry (2009). In addition to her research and teaching, Virginia enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children.

Larry Overman

Professor Overman’s research interests center on the invention of new transformations and strategies in organic synthesis and the total synthesis of natural products and their congeners. Using synthesis strategies developed largely in his laboratory at the University of California, Irvine, his group has completed total syntheses of nearly 100 structurally complex natural products. Professor Overman is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His scientific awards include the Tetrahedron Prize for Creativity in Organic Chemistry and the Arthur C. Cope Award of the American Chemical Society.

Eminent Organic Chemist Videos

The Division of Organic Chemistry (ORGN) of the American Chemical Society (ACS) celebrated its 100th birthday in 2008. As part of this celebration, ORGN hosted a Centennial Symposium at the ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia on August 18, 2008. The day before the symposium, with the support of ORGN and its then Chair, Bob Volkmann, Jeffrey I. Seeman of the University of Richmond conducted video interviews of 20 scientists where one goal was to reveal the human side of eminent organic chemists.

Seeman’s Commentary: “People ask: ‘Who are chemists? How do they work together? What are the sources of their energy and their passion?’ The media of video provides a rich opportunity to connect, very personally, with the world around us and with people who live and work far away. These videos also provide an archival record of our times. How wonderful it would be if we had video interviews with Joseph Priestley, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, Dmitri Mendeleev and others.


Albert Padwa

Albert Padwa (Emory) has published hundreds of papers on novel synthetic methods and total syntheses of natural products including (currently) the shortest route to strychnine. He made seminal contributions in the development of 1,3-polar cycloadditions and their use in total synthesis as well as developing many novel cascade reactions. He is currently an Associate Editor of The ‘Journal of Organic Chemistry’ and a mountain climber of great distinction.