Organic Chemistry
 
Elaine and James Magyar
Physical organic chemistry:  We are studying the acid-catalyzed ring opening reactions of arylcyclopropanes. These projects involve organic synthesis and purification using advanced laboratory methods, FTIR, NMR, and UV spectroscopy, GC-MS, and computational chemistry.  We are also interested in using ab initio methods to explore the molecular geometry and electronic charge distribution in organic molecules and their relationship to experimentally determined parameters like NMR coupling constants and in using molecular dynamics to study proteins.  These projects involve the use of programs such as Spartan, Gaussian, and Gromacs.  Another area of interest is the development of methods that use chemical ionization mass spectroscopy and MS-MS to analyze mixtures derived from chemical reactions or extraction from natural products.
 
John Williams
Dr. Williams’ research group is actively involved in the synthesis, analysis, and toxicity screening of arylphosphonium salts. This type of compound readily passes the cell membrane and the mitochondrial membrane. They complex with DNA in vitro and are inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase, both in vitro and in vivo. The literature reports anti-parasitic and anti-cancer activity in vivo for some of these molecules. They are also antibacterials. 
The long-term goal is to prepare novel compounds of this class that will show selective toxicity against bacteria, especially resistant strains, selective inhibition of acetylcholinesterase, which is one approach to treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease, and selective binding of DNA in malignant cells and thereby act as a cancer chemotherapeutic agents.
The current research projects introduce chemistry and biology students to the essentials of drug development research: make the compounds, collect ADMET data, screen the compounds, select the active compounds for in vivo testing.  A parallel project is computational chemistry (see Theoretical Chemistry) of these salts as potential DNA and protein binders.
This work is supported by the  RI College Faculty Research Fund, EPSCoR and RI-INBRE