Haibo Ge, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), is the recipient of a 5-year, $600,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund research that may one day contribute to drug discoveries. The award will also support development of a new course bridging organic and medicinal chemistry. This training will be useful to students planning careers in the pharmaceutical industry or health professions and is typically only offered by schools of pharmacy.
The Faculty Early Career Development award that Ge has received is NSF's most prestigious award in support of junior faculty. It is given to individuals who "exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research."
Ge's research focuses on an efficient, environmentally friendly method -- with no or minimal metal waste -- to develop a wide variety of chemical compounds that can be used in medicinal chemistry or agricultural research.
"We are working to directly break carbon-hydrogen bonds and then make carbon-carbon bonds more efficiently via environmentally friendly and economical means. Current methods in this research area have limitations and drawbacks. Our approach using copper as a catalyst to break and reform bonds in an oxygen atmosphere provides an attractive alternative," Ge explained.
Dr. Ge's more efficient preparation of potentially important organic compounds is already gaining attention and in 2013 was labeled a "hot topic" by a renowned international chemistry journal. He joined the IUPUI faculty in 2009 after earning a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas and completing post-doctoral training at the Scripps Research Institute.
His NSF grant is also supporting the development of an IUPUI course linking organic and medicinal chemistry that will train both undergraduate and graduate students for entry into the healthcare and pharmaceutical workforces. A specially designed laboratory experiment will be targeted to undergraduates.
"People who work in 21st century labs need new knowledge and skills to enter and remain in the rapidly advancing pharmaceutical industry, or in biomedical or agricultural research," said Dr. Ge. "This course will help them understand and master important concepts, and it also will be very important for students who hope to go to medical, dental, nursing or pharmacy school."
A summer lab program targeted to minorities under-represented in the sciences will train IUPUI undergraduates, paying them while they learn. Those working in the lab during the school year will receive academic credit.
"Haibo Ge's research focusing on efficient, environmentally-friendly methods for preparing organic molecules with important potential impact on organic, medicinal, and agricultural chemistries is propelling IUPUI to the forefront of the chemical synthesis field. His work with undergraduate and graduate students may help them enter a variety of exciting career fields. His receipt of this NSF funding makes us proud," said Simon Rhodes, Ph.D., dean of the School.
Other recipients of NSF Career awards at the School of Science are faculty members Roland Roeder (mathematical sciences), Yogesh Joglekar (physics); Gavriil Tsechpenakis, Murat Dundar and Mohammad Al Hasan (computer and information science); and Gregory Druschel (earth sciences).
The School of Science at IUPUI is committed to excellence in teaching, research and service in the biological, physical, behavioral and mathematical sciences. The school is dedicated to being a leading resource for interdisciplinary research and science education in support of Indiana's effort to expand and diversify its economy.