M Christina White

Personal profile

Personal profile

Professor M. Christina White received her B.A. with highest honors in Biochemistry from Smith College in 1992 and her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1998. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, she joined the faculty there in 2002. In 2005 she joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are in the field of organic synthesis with an emphasis on the discovery of transition-metal mediated reactions that address unsolved problems in organic methodology.

Research Interests

organic synthesis with an emphasis on the discovery of transition-metal mediated reactions that address unsolved problems in organic methodology

Professional Information

Among the frontier challenges in chemistry in the 21st century are (1) increasing control of chemical reactivity and (2) synthesizing complex molecules with higher levels of efficiency. Although it has been well demonstrated that given ample time and resources, highly complex molecules can be synthesized in the laboratory, too often current methods do not allow chemists to match the efficiency achieved in Nature. This is particularly relevant for molecules with non-polypropionate-like oxidation patterns (e.g. Taxol). Traditional organic methods for installing oxidized functionality rely heavily on acid-base reactions that require extensive functional group manipulations (FGMs) including wasteful protection-deprotection sequences. Due to their ubiquity in complex molecules and inertness to most organic transformation, C—H bonds have typically been ignored in the context of methods development for total synthesis. My laboratory has initiated a program to develop highly selective oxidation methods, similar to those found in Nature, for the direct installation of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon functionalities into allylic and aliphatic C—H bonds of complex molecules and their intermediates. Unlike Nature which uses elaborate enzyme active sites, we rely on the subtle electronic and steric interactions between C—H bonds and small molecule transition metal complexes to achieve high selectivities. Gaining a fundamental and predictive understanding of these interactions through mechanistic studies is one of the main goals and discovery engines of our research. Using these methods, my group aims to develop novel strategies for streamlining the process of complex molecule synthesis. Collectively, we aim to change the way that complex molecules are constructed by redefining the reactivity principles of C—H bonds in complex molecule settings. Please see the White Group website for more details.

Honors & Awards

ACS Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry, 2018
Mitsui Chemicals Catalysis Science Award, 2018
Alumni Scholar, University of Illinois Department of Chemistry, 2017
Mukaiyama Award, 2016
Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, 2014
Royal Society of Chemistry Merck Award, 2013
AAAS Fellow, 2012
Cope Scholar Award, 2009
Roche Excellence in Chemistry Award, 2009
Abbott Young Investigator Award, 2008
AstraZeneca Excellence in Chemistry Award, 2008
Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award, 2008
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals New Investigator Award, 2008
Amgen Young Investigator Award, 2008
Sanofi Aventis “Visions in Chemistry,” 2008
Pfizer Award for Creativity in Organic Chemistry, 2008-2009
BMS Unrestricted “Freedom to Discover” Grant, 2008-2009
Eli Lilly Grantee Award, 2007-2009
Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, 2008-2010
Fellow, UIUC Center for Advanced Study, 2006
NSF CAREER Award, 2006-2010
Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award, 2002-2007
National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship,1999-2002
American Chemical Society, Division of Medicinal Chemistry Predoctoral Fellowship, 1997-1998
Sarah and Adolph Roseman Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry, JHU, 1997
Sigma Xi, Smith College, 1992
First Group Scholar, Smith College, 1992
Ford Foundation Summer Research Grant, Smith College , 1991
Dean’s List, Smith College, 1988-1992

Office Address

Department of Chemistry
University of Illinois
A410 CLSL, Box 58-5
600 South Mathews Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Phone


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