In this project funded by the Chemical Synthesis Program of the Chemistry Division, Professor Matthew Sigman of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah will explore the development of techniques to more efficiently optimize diverse enantioselective reactions. Classically, catalyst optimization has remained mainly empirical, wherein evaluation of a significant number of ligands, often structurally unrelated, is required to develop a mature chiral catalyst. To overcome this impediment, Professor Sigman will use modular ligands, which permit the introduction of systematic changes to the ligand structure, in combination with physical organic mechanistic tools (i.e., Hammett electronic parameters and Charton/Taft steric parameters) and design of experimental statistical approaches to facilitate catalyst design and optimization.
This work could lead to both new enantioselective catalysts for challenging, synthetically useful transformations and the development of new approaches for mechanistic analysis and catalyst optimization. Success in each of these areas will have an impact on any area of activity in which the synthesis of molecules and catalyst optimization is needed, such as the pharmaceutical, chemical, agricultural industries and their biological and chemical research activities. In addition, this project will provide training of students, from pre-undergraduate to post-doctoral, including those from groups historically underrepresented in the sciences.