HOUSTON, June 5, 2014 A University of Houston (UH) chemist hopes his work will one day impact the treatment of such diseases as cancer and malaria by better understanding how molecules react and how atoms come together to form bonds.
Jeremy May, an assistant professor of chemistry at UH, received a five-year, $600,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award to develop synthetic strategies to increase the efficiency and yields of chemical reactions. Often requiring a sequence of 30 to 40 different reactions, the process of complex chemical syntheses can be slow, with plenty of waste and not much yield.
"If we can develop chemical transformations that do more in each individual step, then that allows us to use a lot fewer reactions to make the end product," said May, who specializes in synthetic organic chemistry at UH's College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "I see similarities between my work and other increases in efficiency. In auto manufacturing, for instance, if you can do three welds at once, it's going to be faster than if you do one weld at a time on a car frame."
The grant covers the development of a reaction strategy that can form multiple molecular rings within a single transformation. This leads to more complex compounds in less time with greater yield.
"In one reaction, it goes from something that is fairly simple to something that is complex," he said. "We're working on compounds with complex interlinked structures, and we're hoping this reaction strategy will be useful to others studying these types of compounds."
In this strategy, as the number of reactions decreases, the overall yield increases. According to May, each step has a certain chemical yield, and if they can cut the number of steps or reactions in half, then it more than doubles the yield because it's like a geometric or exponential progression.
"My main interest is in chemical reactivity how do chemical bon
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University of Houston