Organic synthesis is an excellent training ground for young scientists. As motivated students enter the “catalytic cycle” of organic synthesis training, they begin to understand how to solve problems and, more importantly, learn to ask important questions. We seek to develop new synthetic reactions that can be applied toward natural products. In addition, the flip side of the same coin is operative as natural products inspire the development of new methods. Ultimately, motivated students will be transformed by this “catalytic cycle” into next generation scientists.
Often referred to as the central science, chemistry continues to demonstrate utility toward a wide range of scientific disciplines. The development of new reactions occupies a privileged position within the field of chemistry due to extensive applications derived from organic synthesis. Since pioneering syntheses of urea (1828) and acetic acid (1845) solely by chemical processes, organic synthesis has impacted countless technological advances. The theme of our research program is training next generation scientists to develop practical synthetic solutions to important scientific problems. Our group focuses on the development of new reactions that are either inspired by or directed toward natural products. Enantioselective oxidopyrylium-alkene [5+2] cycloadditions are being pursued utilizing organocatalysis as an efficient and environmentally friendly solution to this problem. Bridged, polycyclic ethers are ubiquitous moieties in biologically active natural products and the oxidopyrylium-alkene [5+2] cycloaddition is uniquely suited to access this challenging structural motif. Two total synthesis projects of interest are natural products muironolide A and scholarisine A. Both targets represent significant challenges in the area of asymmetric synthesis, one being the stereoselective formation of all-carbon, quaternary stereocenters.