Issue Date: February 28, 2011
Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards: David Crich
David Crich’s contributions to organic chemistry have been so rich and varied that his nominators for the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award found it impossible to limit their recognition of his work to just one area. Ultimately, they split the award citation, honoring Crich, 51, “for his contributions to methodology development and mechanistic investigation in the fields of synthetic carbohydrate and free-radical chemistry.”
Todd L. Lowary, a chemistry professor at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, calls Crich “an undisputed international leader in the field of synthetic carbohydrate chemistry,” adding that “his work has changed the way the scientists in the area think about their discipline.” David J. Hart, a chemistry professor at Ohio State University, describes Crich’s contributions to free-radical chemistry as “an elegant ballet where synthetic and physical organic chemistry play the major roles.”
As an undergraduate at the University of Surrey, in England, Crich studied both chemistry and French, the latter proving especially useful when he spent a year of his undergraduate studies in France working with Sir Derek Barton at the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles (ICSN), part of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, in Paris. This experience prompted Crich to pursue his Ph.D. and postdoctoral studies with Barton.
Since establishing his own research effort, Crich has held faculty positions at England’s University College London; the University of Illinois, Chicago; and Wayne State University, where he was the first Schaap Professor of Organic Chemistry. Two years ago, he was lured back to France to become the director of ICSN.
His numerous accomplishments in carbohydrate chemistry include an important direct stereocontrolled synthesis of β-mannopyranosides. His synthesis remains the only general and direct method for the construction of these molecules and has since been applied to carbohydrates with similar structures. Furthermore, his efforts to elucidate the mechanism of this transformation revealed that the high level of stereocontrol is due to the in situ generation of a glycosyl triflate intermediate that reacts stereoselectively with the acceptor alcohol.
“Crich’s work is organic chemistry at its best,” says Peter H. Seeberger, director of the biomolecular systems department at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids & Interfaces, in Germany. “He develops novel methods that he uses to construct biologically important molecules. In contrast to so many of the practitioners in the field, he has a very strong interest in the area of physical organic chemistry and has spent much effort to elucidate reaction mechanisms and determine the exact course of the reactions he uses.”
“I’m very proud of the fact that I’m an organic chemist, and I’m very proud of the many contributions that organic chemistry has made to society and to the innumerable improvements to our health and lifestyle over the past century or more,” Crich says. “I’m absolutely confident that chemistry conducted in a proper responsible manner still has many, many contributions to make to society, and I still think it’s a great field for young people to go into. It’s very exciting. It’s very challenging. And it has many things to give.”
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