"Where fundamental chemistry can take you: Following the Olefin metathesis"
Danforth Lecture on April 28, 2008
"Design of efficient olefin metathesis catalysts"
Department Seminar on April 28, 2008
The 2005 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry was our 2008 Danforth Lecturer. Robert Grubbs presented a general talk as well as a talk on his Nobel-prize winning research.
Dr. Grubbs' work on catalysis has led to a wide variety of applications in pharmaceuticals and industry materials, known commercially as the "Grubbs catalyst." He studied chemistry at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University. In 1978, he joined the California Institute of Technology faculty where he is currently the Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry. He won the Nobel Prize in 2005 for development of a metathesis method in organic synthesis, which results in specialized, custom-built molecules that can lead to better drug treatments or better conducting properties in plastics, for example.
During his visit to Grinnell, he also visited upper-level chemistry classes. One in particular, the "Current Topics in Chemistry" course led by Prof. Sieck, had been delving into Dr. Grubbs's topic in depth. Students in this course got an overview of olefin metathesis, which has become one of the most influential and important reactions in organic chemistry. They covered a historical analysis of the reaction, catalyst development, examined key mechanistic studies, and looked at how metathesis is utilized in synthesis including ring-closing metathesis (RCM), cross metathesis (CM), ring-opening metathesis (ROM), ring-opening polymerization (ROMP) and alkyne metathesis. Students also created large informative posters, which they presented in a poster session a week before Dr. Grubbs's visit, to help others better understand the topic.