Department of Chemistry



Organic Division

Organic chemistry includes the chemistry of life and all carbon-based materials, and the research in the organic division at the University of Pittsburgh reflects this diversity.
Several groups in the division work on the total synthesis of biologically active natural products and use these molecules as starting points for drug development. Complementary to these efforts, biochemical studies toward understanding Nature’s logic in the assembly of complex natural products are also actively pursued in the division. Other synthesis-related efforts include the invention and development of new synthetic methodology and the elucidation of new approaches to accelerate time-consuming purification processes.

Work at the interface between organic chemistry and the biological sciences includes characterization of the pharmacology and toxicology of therapeutics/potential new drugs. Sophisticated analytical techniques are used to study changes in the proteome associated with various disease states, and designed molecular probes are applied to elucidate the molecular mechanism of specific bioactive agents. Other efforts in the area of chemical biology are aimed at the design and study of synthetic oligomers that mimic the folding and function of proteins and the development of synthetic platforms for assembly of oligosaccharides in order to define their biological roles. Organic fluorescent sensors are being designed for the detection of bioactive species in living and environmental systems.

Physical organic research includes the development of methods for the assignment of the stereochemistry of chiral natural products, quantification of the energetic contributions of weak intermolecular forces to molecular recognition, exploration of the effects of ion pairs on chemical reactions, and spectroscopic characterization of highly reactive intermediates.

In the realm of materials science, organic polymers, dendrimers and bio-inspired assemblies are being investigated for diverse biomedical and environmental applications. 

Many labs in the division have close ties with the NIH-sponsored University of Pittsburgh Center for Chemical Methodologies and Library Development (UPCMLD). At UPCMLD, synthetic methods developed in the chemistry department are applied to prepare architecturally diverse compound libraries; these libraries are tested for various biological activities both at Pitt and in collaborations with labs around the world.