Dr. Florence Williams
Assistant Professor of Chemistry, University of Iowa
Chemistry Building, W285
(319) 384-1319 / florence-williams[at]uiowa.edu
Florence has a diverse background of scientific experience, beginning with her work with Prof. Marc Walters at New York University on gadolinium based MRI contrast agents, as well as iron redox catalysts. Following her transition to graduate school at University of California, Irvine, Florence worked with Prof. Elizabeth Jarvo, where she studied the catalytic abilities of rhodium, palladium, and nickel based complexes to create new C-C, C-O and C-N bonds. In particular, she studied the addition of carbon-based nucleophiles to carbonyl-derived substrates, as well as sp3-sp3 carbon-carbon cross-coupling. Departing from organometallic catalysis, Florence chose to work for Prof. Dorothea Fiedler in the area of chemical biology. Among her projects, Florence developed a fluorescent reagent capable of detecting proteins and peptides which had been pyrophosphorylated. This reagent can be applied to in-gel visualization, allowing for a straightforward method of analysis.
Florence is excited to combine all of the fundamental skills she has developed over her training and apply them towards improving chemical tools for the analysis of cellular behaviors.
Boron-mediated Organic Transformations
Our boron-mediated chemistry involves using the strong coordinating and activating characteristics of boron Lewis acids to cleave alkyl C-O bonds and to coordinate to oxygenated functionality for directed transformations. Boron Lewis acids are typically non-toxic after simple aqueous workup and are easily removed from the final product, making them attractive reagents.
Check out our recent publications in this area:
Bioorthogonal Cross-coupling Reactions
We are pursuing the design and optimization of palladium catalysts for cross-coupling reactions that are performed in neutral protic conditions. Traditional cross-coupling reactions typically use organic solvents, strong bases, and elevated temperatures. In an effort to access both greener coupling conditions and to be able to modify biomolecules such as proteins (which can be sensitive to reaction environment), catalysts are designed based on first principles to accelerate these reactions in milder conditions.
Neurotrophic Small Molecules
As neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease increase in prevalence around the world, new strategies to halt or reverse disease progression are desperately needed. We are investigating the mechanism of neurotrophic (definintion: promoting the proliferation, growth or survival of neuron cells) small molecules in order to provide new insights into pathways of resistance to brain tissue degredation. It is our hope that such insights may light the way for new, more effective, therapeutic strategies.
M. Zain H. Kazmi, Abhoy Karmakar, Vladimir K. Michaelis and Florence J. Williams
Tetrahedron. (2019). 75, 11, 1465-1470.
Talha S. Siddiqui, Ashish Jani, Florence Williams, Robert N. Muller, Luce Vander Elst, Sophie Laurent, Fang Yao, Youssef Zaim Wadghiri and Marc. A Walters
Journal of Colloid and Interface Science. (2009). 337, 1, 88-96.
Marc A. Walters, Jacqueline Chaparro, Talha Siddiqui, Florence Williams, Caleb Ulku and Arnold L. Rheingold
Inorganica Chimica Acta. (2006). 359, 12, 3996-4000.
PhD Candidate (4th year)
Ashley is from a small, quiet hometown in Wisconsin. She received her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in 2018. During her undergraduate career, she pursued research under her Professor Nathan Bowling where she investigated fundamentals of halogen bonding before being given hints to continue to graduate school. After graduation, she was accepted to the graduate program at the University of Iowa where she joined the Williams group in 2019. When not in the lab, she can be found reading, doing all sorts of art, creating costumes, or practicing taekwondo.
PhD Candidate (3rd year)
Piyumi was born and raised in Sri Lanka. She acquired her B.S in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of Colombo Sri Lanka in 2017. During her undergraduate career, she pursued research under Dr. Gayani Perera where she developed a medicinal cotton smart textile using microencapsulation technology. After graduation, she worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Colombo. Then, she was accepted to the graduate Chemistry program at the University of Iowa where she joined the Williams group in 2019.
PhD Student (2nd year)
Andrej was born in Germany and moved to northern Illinois before the age of 5. He received his B.A. in Chemistry from Grinnell College in 2018. During his undergraduate career, he worked with Professor Erick Leggans where he attempted to synthesize Teixobactin analogues. After graduation, he spent 2 years working as a medical scribe in an ER before committing to the University of Iowa’s Chemistry graduate program and joined the Williams group in 2020. When not in lab, he enjoys playing/watching soccer and basketball, gaming, and watching anime.
PhD Student (2nd year)
Theodora is from Rolla, Missouri. Proud of her corn land heritage, she obtained her B.S. in chemistry and minor in mathematics at Mizzou and now is a graduate student at UI working in the Williams research lab – she is Florence, and Theodora is The Machine. Unable to escape her Suzuki coupling past, her work involves using novel Pd-NHC catalysts to facilitate the reaction under Greener conditions. While waiting for her reactions to go to completion, Theodora enjoys baking sweets and then eating them all at once, hiking through corn, reading, and daydreaming. After the Tundra months, Theodora is often spotted on her longboard and listening to music.
PhD Student (2nd year)
Bishnu received his master’s degree in Chemistry with an organic chemistry emphasis from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. After graduation, he worked as an Assistant Research Fellow at Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), then as a full time Lecturer of Chemistry at the School of Health and Allied Sciences in Pokhara University, Nepal. In 2019, he joined Western Illinois University, where he worked with Prof. T.K. Vinod on the catalytic oxidation of benzyl ethers using o-iodoxy benzoic acid (IBX). Bishnu then moved to the University of Iowa and joined the Williams group in 2021. His primary interests include organic synthesis and biocatalysis. In his spare time, Bishnu enjoys riding bikes with his daughter and wife, playing football, and reading journals.
PhD Student (1st year)
Thomas is from South Brunswick Township, New Jersey. He received his B.S. in chemistry at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in December 2020. While in undergrad, he experimented with the lithium-halogen exchange of a brominated thiophene derivative. After graduation, he interned at Adesis Inc.-a small CRO company in New Castle, Delaware before coming to the
University of Iowa in August 2021. Outside of the lab, he enjoys fishing, hiking, playing card and board games, listening to rock music, and watching Breaking Bad.
PhD Student (1st year)
Heather is originally from a small Illinois suburb. She attended Loyola University Chicago where she majored in Chemistry and minored in Meme Page Management (just kidding about the latter, unfortunately). While at LUC, she pursued research under Professor James Devery III pertaining to Lewis acid catalyzed carbonyl-olefin metathesis reactions. After graduating in 2021, she enrolled at the University of Iowa where she joined the Williams lab in the Spring semester of 2022. Besides organic chemistry, Heather enjoys dance, painting, saying “sorry for being the rate-limiting step” when she is holding up a group, reading, and learning random new skills.
Zain Kazmi (PhD)
Andreas Dorian (PhD)
Khyati Gohil (PhD)
Benjamin Hale (PDF)
Krystyn Dubicki (M.Sc.)
Ashley Ley (REU)
Hannah Saunderman (Undergrad)
Parijat Tripathi (Undergrad)
Princey Raju (PhD)
Jonah Curl (Undergrad)
Jared Ho (Undergrad)
Yifan Yang (Undergrad)
Luca Maiorana (Post Baccalaureate)
Nam Truong (M.Sc.)
Bren Atienza (PDF)
Brenden Kelly (Undergrad)
Benjamin Yeremey (Undergrad)
Isaac Zeer-Wanklyn (Undergrad)
Daniella Hernandez (Undergrad)
Lenny Lin (Undergrad)
Rei Chee (Undergrad)