Our research is focussed on the application of physical organic chemistry to the discovery and design of new synthetic methods.
Although accurate prediction of molecular function from structure alone remains a challenge across all areas of synthetic chemistry, it is particularly difficult in the field of homogeneous catalysis: every feature of a catalyst (e.g., ligand sphere, oxidation state etc.), and the conditions under which it is employed (e.g., solvent, reagent stoichiometries etc.), will influence each of the multiple steps of the catalytic cycle.
Our approach is to use the tools of physical organic chemistry – including isotopic labelling, kinetic studies and analysis of structure-activity relationships – to gain an understanding of a reaction’s mechanism, and thus to identify which steps of the cycle have a bearing on rate and selectivity. This insight provides the basis for both informed catalyst optimisation and, ultimately, de novo reaction design.
Current major projects are focused on: (1) developing the catalytic chemistry of the main group elements, and (2) improving the efficiency, scope and practicality of cross-coupling catalysts based on (earth-abundant) transition metals.
Our research is generously supported by the following organisations: