Donna G. Blackmond is a chemical engineer and kineticist recognized for her work in probing organic reaction mechanisms, particularly in asymmetric catalysis, and for investigations aimed at understanding the origin of biological homochirality. She was born in Pittsburgh, PA, and received her PhD in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 1984. She holds joint US/UK citizenship. She began her career as an assistant professor in chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. She has also held academic positions in Germany (Max-Planck-Institut) and the UK, where she held Chairs in Physical Chemistry (University of Hull) and Catalysis (Imperial College London). She has also worked in the pharmaceutical industry (Merck & Co., Inc). She is currently the John C. Martin Endowed Chair in Chemistry and Chemistry Department Chair at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California. Blackmond has been recognized internationally for her research including awards from the American Chemical Society, the British Royal Society, the German Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung. She is an elected member of both the US National Academy of Sciences and the US National Academy of Engineering, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.

Research Interests

Donna Blackmond's laboratory carries out mechanistic studies of complex organic reactions, particularly in asymmetric catalysis. She developed the methodology of Reaction Progress Kinetic Analysis (RPKA), which uses data-rich experimental tools along with computational and graphical manipulation to interrogate multistep catalytic reaction mechanisms. Together with collaborators, she has investigated a wide variety of reactions, including transition-metal catalyzed carbon-carbon and carbon-nitrogen coupling, asymmetric hydrogenation, and C-H functionalization, as well as asymmetric organocatalytic transformations. She has probed the phenomenon of nonlinear effects (NLE) in asymmetric synthesis, catalysis, and autocatalysis. She also investigates mechanistic aspects of electrochemical reactions in organic synthesis. She participates in two National Science Foundation Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI). Another key area of her research seeks to understand the origin of biological homochirality of amino acids and sugars in the context of origin of life research. This work has uncovered both chemical and physical models for enantioenrichment that have been combined with advances in prebiotic chemistry to develop plausible rationalizations for the emergence of the building blocks of life. These studies have also led to valuable methodologies for the chiral synthesis of modern pharmaceuticals. She is a P.I. in the Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life.

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Primary Section

Section 14: Chemistry

Secondary Section

Section 31: Engineering Sciences