Chemistry Professor Receives Summer Research Grant

Associate Professor of Chemistry David Vosburg has been awarded an $8,000 research grant by Organic Syntheses Inc. that provides funding for him and a student co-worker to do research in the area of synthetic organic chemistry.

Members of the Organic Syntheses Advisory Board awarded the grants to faculty from principally undergraduate institutions for research that includes the development of reliable methods for the synthesis of organic compounds.

Vosburg’s research at Harvey Mudd seeks to make medicinally useful molecules in new ways, using chemistry that imitates how such molecules are believed to be formed naturally in plants. He is also concerned with finding environmentally friendly methods that minimize waste and toxicity. For this project, Vosburg and his students will use information from previous synthetic and computational studies to inform their research and achieve their goals, including completing the synthesis of cryptobeilic acid D (an antimalarial natural product) and isocryptobeilic acid D.

Vosburg is confident that the proposed studies “will result in the first syntheses of cryptobeilic acid D and isocryptobeilic acid D as well as greater insight into the pericyclic biomimetic cascades that give rise to these and related compounds.” The research also will focus on large-scale preparation of a precursor to grandifloracin, a natural molecule with applications for pancreatic cancer.

Vosburg says he was honored to be invited to apply for the Organic Syntheses grant last July. “It was cool to be invited to apply for this award in its first year, and even cooler to be one of just four faculty in the country selected for it,” he says. Students involved in the project will gain valuable research experience, not to mention the potential for publishing work based on the study, which will take place over 10 weeks this summer.