Brian Stoltz entertains, educates in chemistry seminar

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Attendees to Wednesday’s seminar at the Florida Tech department of chemistry were treated to an exciting lecture from one of the country’s top organic chemists.

Brian Stoltz from California Institute of Technology presented  “Complex Natural Products as a Driving Force for Discovery in Organic Chemistry.”

The lecture is the 2015-16 installment of the A. H. Blatt Distinguished Lecture Series, and is the first since 2012-13 when Stoltz’s colleague at Cal Tech Dr. Robert Grubbs presented.

The A. H. Blatt lecture series is named in honor of Professor A. Harold Blatt who was an influential figure in founding the Florida Tech chemistry department in 1974.

Blatt was a revered chemist, who was most famous as an editor of the prestigious book Organic Syntheses and co-author of the classic text The Chemistry of Organic Compounds.

Stoltz came to Florida Tech by way of collaboration with Florida Tech professor Nasri Nesnas, who spent several months recently on sabbatical at Cal Tech. Stoltz, who has been teaching at Cal Tech since 2000, before that he earned his PhD at Yale, and spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow at Nobel Laureate E. J. Corey’s lab at Harvard University.

Although, he didn’t always want to be a chemist. “There was a point in time when I thought I was going to be a drummer,” he said looking back. But Stoltz found his way and is now pushing the limit of chemical research.

Stoltz’s research focuses on the synthesis of incredibly complex organic molecules, using molecules isolated from nature as an inspiration. These molecules are often incredibly difficult to synthesize in a laboratory setting, but Stoltz insists that that isn’t the only end-goal. By striving to create these compounds, information is learned about the molecules, creating a feedback loop that can help drive new methodology and new analogues of these organic molecules.

One incredibly difficult feature of the molecules Stoltz tackles is the issue of all-carbon quaternary centers, which features a carbon with four carbon-carbon bonds. These are incredibly difficult to synthesize in the desired configuration and have been a driving force for Stoltz to create a new methodology.

Professor Stoltz has received awards from numerous pharmaceutical companies including: AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer and Eli Lilly. He has also received numerous medals from chemical organizations and journals across the world and has authored or coauthored over 180 journal articles.