Research

Research in the Kennedy group is directed toward the development of new and sustainable strategies for catalysis. This involves uniting the complementary strengths of organometallic chemistry and organocatalysis to design (and elucidate the mechanisms of) chemo-, regio-, and stereoselective catalytic methods for the valorization of chemical feedstocks ranging from petrochemicals, to biomass, to anthropogenic waste. The pursuit of sustainable methods for construction of useful chemical motifs (e.g. for therapeutics, flavors & fragrances, agrochemicals, and materials) is coupled with the goal of deepening our collective understanding of the principles of chemical reactivity. Toward this goal, particular emphasis is directed toward the development of catalytic methods and strategies that address unmet needs in synthetic chemistry through understanding and controlling the activation and functionalization of C–H and C–C bonds. Some examples of projects include:

  • using transition metal catalysis to temporarily “borrow” functional groups in order to achieve byproduct-free complexity-building processes
  • leveraging external stimuli to modulate the reactivity and selectivity of open-shell reactive intermediates
  • manipulating attractive secondary coordination sphere interactions to achieve precise control over competing reaction pathways

This interdisciplinary program is inspired by Nature and aspires to unite organic and organometallic synthesis with atomic-level mechanistic understanding using state-of-the-art experimental and computational techniques from physical organic and physical inorganic chemistry. The goal of all of this work will be to generate useful tools for fields ranging from molecular therapeutics and biological imaging, to fine chemical synthesis, to plastic production and recycling. In each of these pursuits, collaborations will be launched to maximize the translation of proof-of-principle to practice.

Researchers in the group can expect to gain experience and expertise in organic & organometallic synthesis & characterization, method development, and mechanistic study.