Synthetic organic chemistry is a creative area of science involving the transformation of existing molecules into completely new ones. Initially, the design of a target molecule must be based on some hypothesis that the resulting structure will provide new insights into chemistry. For example, the new molecule might be intrinsically desirable because of its shape, its reactivity, its physical and spectroscopic properties, or its anticipated biological activity. The desired products could lead to new drugs or new materials. Once the target structure has been chosen, a synthetic route must be determined. This can be based on known transformations or can pose a challenge to discover new transformations.
In practice, a new target molecule must combine originality of structure with feasibility of synthesis. The overall process is one of molecular architecture followed by molecular construction. In addition to the science, there is an artistic element in this field of research. Simple buildings can easily be constructed using known principles. However, something quite novel and beautiful, such as the Sydney Opera House, requires solutions to be found to fundamental construction problems.
These principles will be illustrated in the case of indoles, which are important molecules in the chemistry of life, as a consequence of the essential amino acid tryptophan. Over recent years, we have investigated the chemical reactions of specifically activated indoles, and these have generated a wide range of interesting, novel structures.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Professor David Black (University of NSW)
Professor David Black studied chemistry at the University of Sydney. Following a Masters degree mentored by Francis Lions, he was awarded an Overseas Scholarship of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 to undertake a PhD in Cambridge. After post-doctoral research with Thomas Katz at Columbia University, he was appointed to a lectureship at Monash University. In 1983 he moved to the chair of organic chemistry at the University of New South Wales. He has spent periods of study leave at the ETH Zürich, Würzburg University as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow and Cambridge University. He has also held Visiting Professorships in Tokyo, Auckland, Göttingen, Innsbruck and Kobe. He has won the Rennie, Smith, Birch and Leighton Medals of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, of which he served as National President in 1998. David has also served as Secretary-General of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry from 2004-2011, and Secretary-General of the International Council for Science from 2011-2018. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and an Officer of the Order of Australia. He was recently awarded the 2017 Craig Medal of the Australian Academy of Science.
David has made major contributions to organic chemistry in the general fields of heterocyclic chemistry, coordination chemistry and natural products. His research has focused on the design and synthesis of new molecular structural types, often related to important known natural products, but displaying deliberate reactivity variations that are not found in nature. He was a pioneer in the use of metal coordination for the control of organic reactions, and has also discovered new reactions of activated indoles leading to the construction of molecular receptors and small peptide mimics.
Professor David Black (University of NSW) will present on molecular design and synthesis at QUT.