Seminar: Donna Blackmond, The Scripps Research Institute

The Department welcomes Donna Blackmond, The Scripps Research Institute. Dr. Blackmond’s seminar is titled “Models for the Emergence of Biological Homochirality”.

The single chirality of biological molecules has fascinated scientists and laymen alike since Pasteur’s first painstaking separation of the enantiomorphic crystals of a tartrate salt over 150 years ago. In the past several decades, a number of theoretical and experimental investigations have helped to delineate models for how one enantiomer might have come to dominate over the other from what presumably was a racemic prebiotic world. Our work has highlighted mechanisms that include either chemical or physical processes, or a combination of both. While much of the scientific driving force for this work arises from an interest in understanding the origin of life, research focusing on mechanisms for the enantioenrichment of chiral molecules has the potential to impact a wide range of applications, most notably in the synthesis and formulation of pharmaceuticals.

Donna G Blackmond received a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University. She has held professorships in chemistry and in chemical engineering in the US, Germany, and the UK, and she has worked in the pharmaceutical industry at Merck & Co., Inc. She is Professor of Chemistry and Department Chair at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California. She holds joint US/UK citizenship.

Prof. Blackmond has been recognized internationally for her research including awards from the Royal Society, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and the American Chemical Society. She is an elected member of the US National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has been a Woodward Visiting Scholar at Harvard, a Miller Institute Research Fellow at Berkeley, an NSF Visiting Professor at Princeton, the Givaudan-Karrer Lecturer at University of Zürich, and the Gordon Lecturer at the University of Toronto.

Prof. Blackmond’s research focuses on mechanistic studies of organic reactions, including asymmetric catalysis. She pioneered the methodology of “Reaction Progress Kinetic Analysis (RPKA)” for fundamental mechanistic studies of complex organic reactions as well as for streamlining pharmaceutical process research. Prof. Blackmond is a Simons Investigator in the Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Origins of Life where she studies prebiotic chemistry and the origin of biological homochirality.

Prof. Blackmond is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organic Chemistry and serves on the Editorial Board of Reaction Engineering and Chemistry as well as the Editorial Advisory Boards of ACS Central Science, Organic Letters, Chemical Science, and Advanced Synthesis and Catalysis. She serves as a consultant to several major pharmaceutical companies.

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