Development of New Copper-Catalyzed Reactions for Sustainable Synthesis Applications

The copper-catalyzed hydroetherification enables efficient and selective synthesis of chiral saturated oxygen heterocycles.

Sustainable synthesis is enabled with copper catalysis. 

Project description

Broader Context: Small molecule therapeutics are a staple of modern medicine. Most small molecule medicines are synthesized from simpler chemicals by pharmaceutical chemists. Organic synthesis is a key discipline in the training of a pharmaceutical chemist. This project will teach organic synthesis skills, broadly defined: library skills, multi-step organic synthesis strategic thinking, laboratory skill involving reaction set-up, work-up, product purification and analysis by spectroscopy.

Copper is an earth abundant transition metal. Transition metals are valuable catalysts for organic reactions, able to lower the amount of energy required for a molecular transformation to occur and enable control of its selectivity, for example, chemoselectivity, regioselectivity and stereoselectivity. The Chemler group has developed and is continuing to develop a suite of copper-catalyzed reactions. The project involves development of these reactions and their application to bioactive small molecule target synthesis. 

Project outcome

Students will develop a project and will have opportunities to present their research as posters or conference talks. The Western New York American Chemical Society holds an annual undergraduate research symposium, for example. Student will also present at group meetings (powerpoint, end of semester). Significant advancement of the project will merit co-authorship on any research publication that should result.

Students will learn organic synthesis skills, broadly defined. Graduates tend to target careers in health related fields (e.g. pharmacy, medical school), become employed directly in the chemical industry and pharma, and many go on to graduate school in chemistry or chemical biology. 

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Determined on an individual basis 
Start time Anytime
In-person, remote, or hybrid? In-person
Level of collaboration Undergraduate students are paired with graduate student mentors 
Benefits Academic credit (CHE290 or CHE498)
Who is eligible Sophomores, Juniors & Seniors with 1 year of general chemistry and at least 1 semester of organic chemistry. GPA > 2.9 preferred

Project mentor

Sherry Chemler

Professor of Chemistry


Phone: (716) 617-8413


Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 


chemistry, organic chemistry, synthesis, organometallic, catalysis, sustainability, medicinal chemistry,