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Professor Christopher Douglas has received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support his research into new methodologies for chemical synthesis, particularly those relating to the activation and functionalization of carbon sigma bonds adjacent to carbonyls.
The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is one of the NSF's most prestigious awards. It supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.
Douglas' research encompasses discovering new chemical synthesis methods involving the metal-promoted activation of carbon sigma bonds in ketones, esters, and aldehydes. A major focus will be on the insertion of unsaturated groups into the activated bonds. Mechanistic work will be undertaken to develop a deeper understanding of the new reactivity develop. The methods developed under the CAREER award will be applied to a diverse set of synthesis challenges. Applications will range from the synthesis of commodity chemical feedstocks like methyl ethyl ketone to the synthesis of complex natural products.
Douglas also will initiate two educational projects that interweave research and teaching. The first project involves discovery-based learning in a large chemistry classroom. A hybrid, guided-inquiry and traditional-lecture teaching plan for introductory organic chemistry will be piloted and tested.
The second project is an outreach program involving a local recording arts high school that serves at-risk children from predominantly underrepresented groups. Douglas and members of his research group will design and lead college visit days designed to engage students in hands-on science demonstration activities, including making their own chemiluminescent glow-stick. The high-school students will record their experiences as a part of their recording-arts curriculum with a goal of producing a public service announcement for their school's radio program.