Jeff Byers' Research

My research program at Middlebury is carried out entirely with the assistance of undergraduate students.  Through a variety of other internal and external funding sources, I typically have 3-4 students working side-by-side with me each summer, with a comparable number during the academic year.  Since beginning my career at Middlebury in 1986, I have been awarded one grant from The Research Corporation, two ACS/PRF grants, four NSF-RUI grants, and served as PI or co-PI on NSF instrumentation grants leading to the acquisition of an NMR, GC/MS, polarimeter, and LC/MS for use in research and course based-activities.  With these grants, I have been able to involve over 80 undergraduate students in my research efforts.  Among these students, 24 went on to earn advanced degrees (mostly PhD's) in chemistry, biochemistry, or related fields, or are currently enrolled and progressing towards this degree.  A total of 27 of my former students have gone on to careers as physicians, with many of them gravitating towards research-based careers, and 4 have earned law degrees, and have established careers in patent law, putting the technical training which they received in the course of their research to use in a different venue.

The research which I and my students undertake is in the area of radical-based synthetic organic chemistry.  In the course of this research, we hope to discover new pathways by which organic molecules (consisting primarily, but not entirely, of Carbon and Hydrogen) can react. Much of this work has culminated in publications and presentations at scientific meetings with Middlebury students as coauthors.

During the last 30 years there has been a resurgence of interest in the development and use of radical reactions. Synthetic organic chemists have become aware of and interested in the potential power of radical reactions, which can often accomplish transformations which are impossible using classic ionic or pericyclic reactions.  Our long-term research goals center on the discovery of new radical reactions, and their application to carbon-carbon bond-forming processes of general value to synthetic organic chemists.  The use of transition-metal complexes to modify the reactivity of organic molecules, particularly polyenes, has been of great interest to organic chemists since the discovery of ferrocene over 50 years ago.  We have noted that there has been very little work at the interface of these two somewhat disparate fields.

Some of the larger questions we will be asking include:

  • Can these radicals even be generated?
  • Can ligand based, rather than metal based reactivity be ensured?
  • Will polyene complexation render radicals more or less reactivity?
  • How will complexation affect selectivity?
  • Can complexation be used to control stereoselectivity?