Sheffield hosts Royal Society of Chemistry Centenary Prize Lecture

An award-winning chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, began a series of talks in the UK with a stop in Sheffield.

John HartwigProfessor John Hartwig was recently awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry's Centenary Prize, "for the discovery of new catalytic reactions, their mechanistic elucidation, and their application to organic synthesis".

He visited the UK to celebrate the prize with a series of lectures, starting with a visit to the University of Sheffield's Department of Chemistry.

Professor Hartwig received his degree from Princeton University, followed by a PhD from University of California, Berkeley, with Bob Bergman and Richard Andersen.

He conducted a postdoctoral fellowship at Massecheussets Institute of Technology with Stephen Lippard, and in 1992 began his independent career at Yale University, where he became the Irenée P DuPont Professor in 2004.

In 2006, he moved to the University of Illinois as the Kenneth L Rinehart Jr Professor of Chemistry, and in 2011 he returned to Berkley as the Henry Rapoport Professor.

Professor Hartwig is known for helping to develop the Buchwald-Hartwig amination, a process used in organic chemistry for the synthesis of carbon-nitrogen bonds via palladium-catalysed cross –coupling of amines with aryl halides.

The RSC Centenary Prizes are awarded annually to outstanding overseas chemists, who are also exceptional communicators. Winners then give a series of talks at UK institutions.

During his visit to Sheffield, Professor Hartwig remarked that it was "an honour to be the recipient of the award" and that "the list of people who have received it is really quite staggering".

His talk was on 'Catalytic regioselective functionalised of C-H bonds'. The motivation behind this research, Professor Hartwig said, is that in biosynthesis nature can selectively functionalise C-H bonds seemingly with ease, despite the presence of many potential reactive sites.

One way we can try to mimic this is by evolving known enzymes – a topic that was the subject of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemsitry.

Professor Hartwig's work aims to develop new organometallic catalysts that can regioselectively deliver these desired functional groups.

A great deal of this work focusses on employing transient functional groups at these positions, such as organoborons or organosilicon, allowing selective functionalisation of the site.