School of Chemistry

Synthesis and Catalysis

We investigate new methods to synthesise molecules with desirable functions such as biological activity, catalytic reactivity and thermoelectric properties.

Research is focused on developing new reactions, catalysts and technologies to synthesise molecules required by society in a simple, efficient and sustainable manner.

An important goal in this work is to control the selectivity of reactions to prepare only the desired target compound and minimise the formation of side-products. This research is supported by detailed studies into how reactions work, to facilitate more accurate prediction of molecular function from chemical structure.



Our Research

The interests of this research theme cover diverse areas such as:

  • New synthetic methods and reactions
  • The development of new transition metal catalysts and organic catalysts
  • Asymmetric synthesis and catalysis
  • The synthesis of natural products and their analogues
  • Molecular targeting of cancer, malaria and neurodegeneration
  • Design and synthesis of chemical probes for biological systems
  • Physical organic chemistry, including kinetic studies, isotopic labelling and analysis of structure-activity relationships
  • Reactions in supercritical carbon dioxide
  • Green and sustainable synthesis
  • New enabling technologies for synthesis, such as photochemistry, electrochemistry and flow chemistry
  • The design and synthesis of molecules with thermoelectric properties

Enantioselective Rhodium-Catalyzed Coupling Reactions

A recent publication in the journal Angewandte Chemie from the Lam group describing the enantioselective three-component coupling reaction of arylboronics, 1,3-enynes and imines has recently been highlighted as “ Synfact of the Month” for February 2018.


 This key reactivity underpinning this research is the generation of nucleophilic allylrhodium(I) species by alkenyl-to-allyl 1,4- rhodium(I) migration.

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Au-catalyzed biaryl coupling to generate 5- to 9-membered rings

A recent publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society from the Ball group investigates the intramolecular gold-catalyzed arylation of arenes by aryl-trimethylsilanes has been from both mechanistic and preparative aspects.


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Recent Publications

Total synthesis of (–)-aritasone via the ultra-high pressure hetero-Diels-Alder dimerisation of (–)-pinocarvone
Uroos, M.; Pitt, P.; Harwood, L. M.; Lewis, W.; Blake, A. J.; Hayes, C. J. 
Org. Biomol. Chem. 2017, 15, 8523–8528 

Palladium-catalyzed enantioselective C−H activation of aliphatic amines using chiral anionic BINOL-phosphoric acid ligands
Smalley, A. P.; Cuthbertson, J. D.; Gaunt, M. J. 
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 1412−1415

A More Critical Role for Silicon in the Catalytic Staudinger Amidation: Silanes as Non-Innocent Reductants,
Andrews, K.; Denton, R.M. 
Chem. Commun. 2017, 53, 7971

A Practical and Catalyst-Free Trifluoroethylation Reaction of Amines Using Trifluoroacetic Acid,
Andrews, K.; Faizova, R.; Denton, R.M. 
Nature Commun. 2017, 8, 15913

C-H Insertion as a key step to spiro-oxetanes, scaffolds for drug discovery
Nicolle, S. M.; Nortcliffe, A.; Bartrum, H. E.; Lewis, W.; Hayes C. J.; Moody, C. J. 
Chem. Eur. J. 2017, 23, 13623–13627 

A laboratory-scale annular continuous flow reactor for UV photochemistry using excimer lamps for discrete wavelength excitation and its use in a wavelength study of a photodecarboxlyative cyclisation 
Delaney, E. N.; Lee D. S.; Elliott, L. D.; Jin, J.; Booker-Milburn, K. I.; Poliakoff, M.; George, M. W.
Green Chemistry 2017, 19(6), 1431-1438

Kinetic Analysis of Copper(I)/Feringa-Phosphoramidite Catalysed AlEt3 1,4-Addition to Cyclohex-2-en-1-one,
Willcox D.; Nouch R.; Kingsbury A.; Robinson D.; Carey J. V.; Brough S.; Woodward S.
ACS Catalysis  20177, 6901-6908


Postgraduate research

We are interested in the recruitment of talented and enthusiastic students with a passion for creative research.

How to apply




School of Chemistry

University Park Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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