Organic and Medicinal Chemistry Division

The Organic Chemistry division of the Chemistry Department at the University at Albany offers a diverse range of research opportunities. This broad discipline spans all of the major areas of Organic Chemistry, extending from synthesis of complex natural products, development of synthetic methods and investigations of organosulfur and organofluorine mechanistic chemistry, to the study of biological macromolecules such as nucleic acids and proteins.

The Organic Chemistry program at Albany has very strong interdisciplinary interactions and interfaces a variety of other fields, such as Biology, Medicine, Material Science, and areas including Biochemistry, Structural Biology and Forensic Chemistry. Several research groups are involved in collaborations with other research divisions and institutes, which provides great opportunities for student trainees to be immersed in cutting-edge research. The work is related not only to basic and fundamental organic and biological problems, but also to applications in human diseases, including cancer, HIV, diabetes, neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and autism.

Current activities in the organic chemistry division target:

  • New synthetic methods development and total synthesis of complex natural products (Eric Block, Ting Wang, Zhang Wang, John Welch, Qiang Zhang)
  • Studies of biological macromolecules such as nucleic acids, peptides and proteins (Eric Block, Rabi Musah, Max Rozyen, Jia Sheng, Ting Wang, John Welch, Qiang Zhang)
  • Organosulfur chemistry (Eric Block, Rabi Musah, John Welch)
  • Organofluorine chemistry (John Welch)
  • Application of modern analytical instruments in forensics (Rabi Musah)
  • Molecular basis of olfaction (the sense of smell) (Eric Block)

Eric Block’s lab focuses on several different areas, including: the chemistry of olfaction (the sense of smell); Allium chemistry (organosulfur and organoselenium chemistry of garlic, onion, and other genus Allium plants); natural products chemistry including isolation, characterization and total synthesis; organosulfur and organoselenium chemistry; heteroatom and heterocyclic chemistry; bio-organic chemistry; organic synthesis; organic photochemistry.

Studies in Rabi Musah’s lab include plant chemical defense mechanisms, the impact on climate of organosulfur emissions by plants, the biosynthetic pathways involved in formation of organosulfur compounds in plants, development of efficient methods to identify fauna and flora of forensic relevance, and the toxicology in humans of plants of abuse. The work aims to discover environmentally benign herbicides and insecticides, enhance understanding of the impact of plants on climate, and develop novel methods for the identification of plant psychoactive drugs and their metabolites.

The Royzen group is interested in developing new synthetic and imaging tools for RNA research. Affiliated with The RNA Institute at the University at Albany, we undertake interdisciplinary work on projects involving chemical synthesis of nucleoside analogs, characterization of their photophysical properties, solid phase synthesis of RNA strands containing unnatural nucleosides and live cell imaging. We are collaborating with Shekhtman Lab to develop Cu(II)-based NMR shift reagents as a probes for RNA-protein interactions in live cells using in-cell NMR techniques. We arealso collaborating with Yigit Lab and Shasqi, Inc. to develop new image-guided delivery tools for RNAi.

Jia Sheng’s lab is focused on the chemical synthesis, structural and functional studies of naturally modified nucleic acids, one of the most important groups of biological macromolecules. The diversified chemical modifications discovered in DNA and RNA (including tRNA, mRNA, rRNA and all the other non-coding RNAs) play critical biological roles and are directly related to many diseases. We hope the atomic-level understanding of their 3D structures and their metabolic pathways will lead to better elucidation of their functions and the potential drug discovery.

Ting Wang’s group is focused on the development of new synthetic methods for natural product synthesis. Of particular interest are the discovery of new synthetic strategies via visible light photocatalysis and cooperative catalysis, and their applications in the synthesis of small molecules, peptides, and proteins.

Zhang Wang’s group focuses on development of new synthetic methodologies and total synthesis of biologically active natural products. Their research intends to address some important questions in organic chemistry and biological processes via organic synthesis. The synthetic methodology program includes development of asymmetric protocols of pericyclic reactions. The total synthesis program targets potent neurotrophic alkaloids and anticancer macrolides.

The Welch laboratory is actively involved in three research topics. Novel methods for the preparation of fluorinated hypervalent sulfur compounds has led to studies on the control of organic reactivity by these groups, especially in peptides and β-lactams. Our gene cassette strategy has enabled the preparative biosynthesis of de novo designed optical antennas for the study of multi-photon processes and the efficient capture of solar energy by biomaterials. A decades long interest in the antituberculous agent pyrazinamide continues to motivate research on the histone deacetylase SIRT6 by both multinuclear and STD NMR methods.

Qiang Zhang’s laboratory studies interesting problems in organic synthesis and chemical biology. The main research theme of his group is the chemical synthesis of neurologically related targets complemented by new methodology discoveries, including Tau protein aggregation inhibitors natural products, voltage-gated sodium channel blocker peptides, neurotoxic glycopeptides and glycoproteins.