Research Fellows Directory
Dr Robert Phipps
University of Cambridge
My research concerns developing new and more efficient ways to build molecules, specifically organic molecules (most commonly composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen). Such molecules underlie a vast amount of science and nature. They are found in small form as the active ingredients in lifesaving pharmaceuticals, and in much larger form as proteins and DNA, as well as increasingly playing a key role in the development of new materials with exciting properties.
A key tool at an organic chemist’s disposal is undoubtedly catalysis, whereby the use of a small amount of a custom-designed catalyst can permit a reaction to occur under much milder conditions than otherwise, or open up new chemical pathways altogether. Hence, innovation in catalysis is central to innovation in organic chemistry. Nature’s catalysis is performed by enzymes; evolution has made them phenomenally efficient. Often playing a leading role in enzymatic processes are 'hydrogen bonds', special types of electrostatic attraction which are important in facilitating the chemical reaction between two molecules by bringing them into close proximity with one another or by stabilising the pathway leading to product formation. My research will employ these same interactions, but in the context of small molecules which we can readily synthesise and handle in the laboratory (enzymes themselves are often too specialised for general, everyday use). This approach to catalysis is particularly exciting as it is still in its infancy yet offers exciting opportunities for both activation and control in catalysis.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)