NSF CAREER Award, 2017
A new, five-year National Science Foundation CAREER Award will help chemist David Nagib build better drugs. The assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry’s $700,000 award for “Anomeric Activation Strategy for Catalytic, Ketyl Radical Reactivity” boosts critical work on carbonyls, one of the most important building blocks in the synthesis of new medicines. The grant also funds multifaceted outreach programs.
Exactly why are carbonyls important?
Since they have a positive charge, they typically only react with negatively charged molecules. However, if you add a single electron to a carbonyl, you can convert it to a ketyl radical, which now combines with positively charged species in a “polarity reversed” fashion.
The problem — and why this powerful approach isn’t used more often — is that making ketyl radicals typically requires the use of strong metal reductants like sodium or samarium, which can be toxic, expensive and incompatible with common functional groups found in medicines.
We are designing a mild, catalytic approach that can be sustainably employed to access this other side of carbonyl reactivity.
What does your outreach component focus on?
A summer research internship program for high school and college students across Ohio, with continued focus on traditionally underrepresented groups, to experience scientific research at a world-class institution.
A hands-on community engagement program encouraging local school students to interact with our lab and learn about the role of free radicals in their daily life.
A new visual outreach project, “Radical Life. Animated,” shows how free radicals are involved in our daily life: cooking French fries, activating air bags, manufacturing tires, synthesizing penicillin and even making smart phones thinner.