Prof. White has made pioneering contributions to the development of catalysts for selective allylic and aliphatic C—H oxidations that proceed without the requirement for substrate directing groups. Such reactions were previously considered not possible outside enzymatic catalysis.
M. Christina White
Professor M. Christina White received her B.A. with highest honors in Biochemistry from Smith College in 1992 and her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1998. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, she joined the faculty there in 2002. In 2005 she joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are in the field of organic synthesis with an emphasis on the discovery of transition-metal mediated reactions that address unsolved problems in organic methodology.
- organic synthesis with an emphasis on the discovery of transition-metal mediated reactions that address unsolved problems in organic methodology
Among the frontier challenges in chemistry in the 21st century are (1) increasing control of chemical reactivity and (2) synthesizing complex molecules with higher levels of efficiency. Although it has been well demonstrated that given ample time and resources, highly complex molecules can be synthesized in the laboratory, too often current methods do not allow chemists to match the efficiency achieved in Nature. This is particularly relevant for molecules with non-polypropionate-like oxidation patterns (e.g. Taxol). Traditional organic methods for installing oxidized functionality rely heavily on acid-base reactions that require extensive functional group manipulations (FGMs) including wasteful protection-deprotection sequences. Due to their ubiquity in complex molecules and inertness to most organic transformation, C—H bonds have typically been ignored in the context of methods development for total synthesis. My laboratory has initiated a program to develop highly selective oxidation methods, similar to those found in Nature, for the direct installation of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon functionalities into allylic and aliphatic C—H bonds of complex molecules and their intermediates. Unlike Nature which uses elaborate enzyme active sites, we rely on the subtle electronic and steric interactions between C—H bonds and small molecule transition metal complexes to achieve high selectivities. Gaining a fundamental and predictive understanding of these interactions through mechanistic studies is one of the main goals and discovery engines of our research. Using these methods, my group aims to develop novel strategies for streamlining the process of complex molecule synthesis. Collectively, we aim to change the way that complex molecules are constructed by redefining the reactivity principles of C—H bonds in complex molecule settings. Please see the White Group website for more details.
Distinctions / Awards
- Alumni Scholar, University of Illinois Department of Chemistry, 2017
- Mukaiyama Award, 2016
- Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, 2014
- Royal Society of Chemistry Merck Award, 2013
- AAAS Fellow, 2012
- Cope Scholar Award, 2009
- Roche Excellence in Chemistry Award, 2009
- Abbott Young Investigator Award, 2008
- AstraZeneca Excellence in Chemistry Award, 2008
- Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award, 2008
- Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals New Investigator Award, 2008
- Amgen Young Investigator Award, 2008
- Sanofi Aventis “Visions in Chemistry,” 2008
- Pfizer Award for Creativity in Organic Chemistry, 2008-2009
- BMS Unrestricted “Freedom to Discover” Grant, 2008-2009
- Eli Lilly Grantee Award, 2007-2009
- Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, 2008-2010
- Fellow, UIUC Center for Advanced Study, 2006
- NSF CAREER Award, 2006-2010
- Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award, 2002-2007
- National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship,1999-2002
- American Chemical Society, Division of Medicinal Chemistry Predoctoral Fellowship, 1997-1998
- Sarah and Adolph Roseman Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry, JHU, 1997
- Sigma Xi, Smith College, 1992
- First Group Scholar, Smith College, 1992
- Ford Foundation Summer Research Grant, Smith College , 1991
- Dean’s List, Smith College, 1988-1992
In The News
Recent work from the White Group on a new manganese catalyzed benzylic C—H amination for late-stage C—H functionalization was published in Nature Chemistry last week and was also highlighted in C&E News on Monday, May 8th.
Thomas Osberger (White group) and Andy Thomas (Denmark group) are finalists for the 2017 Reaxys PhD Prize.
Chemists led by University of Illinois professor M. Christina White and graduate student Thomas Osberger found that two small-molecule iron catalysts can oxidize chiral amino acids and peptides to an array of unnatural forms, giving researchers more options for developing drug candidates.
Chemists have long believed that inserting nitrogen – a beneficial ingredient for making many pharmaceuticals and other biologically active molecules – into a carbon-hydrogen bond requires a trade-off between catalyst reactivity and selectivity.