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Current Research

Research in the Martin lab focuses on the development of new catalytic transformations, novel strategies for bond activation and the synthesis of bioactive molecules for the study and treatment of human disease. We find inspiration both through the identification of bioactive natural product targets and through consideration of larger problems where organic chemistry is poised to offer practical solutions (e.g. depolymerization and selective functionalization of biomass). Our goal is to provide reaction platforms that are both practical and sustainable and to work with groups specialized in biological and biochemical fields to investigate the causes and prevention of diseases such as cancer and neurodegeneration.

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Sustainable Catalysis

Converting abundant, renewable feedstocks into valuable chemical building blocks is an important goal to improve the sustainability of the global chemical enterprise. As we transition from petroleum sources to renewable sources such as plant biomass, the need arises for efficient strategies to manipulate and diversify highly oxygenated feedstocks such as sugars, lignin and lignocellulose. We are developing novel methods for the reductive functionalization, redox-neutral cross coupling and catalytic deoxygenation of alcohols. In one approach, we are investigating photocatalytic methods for the activation of C–O bonds in alcohols. This will allow for the efficient, direct coupling of alcohols to generate new C–C bonds. We use a variety of light sources to provide visible light irradiation to our reactions, ranging from simple CFL bulbs to LEDs including the high intensity Kessil PR160 series of blue LED lamps. Selecting the right wavelength for each photocatalyst system can improve reaction rates and product yields.

Design and Synthesis of Bioactive Molecules

Another major focus of the lab is the exploration of general approaches to families of natural products where promising biological activity has been reported, in particular in the areas of neuroprotection and non-oncogene addiction. We are developing synthetic strategies to neuroprotective natural products to provide probe molecules and investigate their mechanism of action. We are also interested in new strategies for the treatment of cancer such as exploiting non-oncogene addiction. In collaboration with Dr. Jeff Perry in the Department of Biochemistry at UCR, we use docking studies to design novel enzyme inhibitors and then synthesize and test them in binding and biochemical assays.

Targets of Interest


Funding Sources


UC Riverside College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences


Doctoral New Investigator Grant
Petroleum Research Fund
American Chemical Society

University of California

UC Cancer Research Coordinating Committee


National Science Foundation CAREER Award – Catalysis CHE-1751687