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    Dr. Florence J. Williams

    Assistant Professor of Chemistry, University of Iowa

    Chemistry Building, W285

    (319) 384-1319 / florence-williams[at]uiowa.edu

    • B.S. New York University (2006)
    • Ph. D. University of California - Irvine (2011)
    • PDF Princeton University (2012-2015)
    • Assistant Professor, University of Alberta (2016-2019)

    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.

  • Projects

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    Boron Triiodide-Mediated Reduction of Nitroarenes

    The reduction of nitroarenes using BI3 (generated in situ using KBH4 and I2) is described in our recent publication. Conditions were optimized for BI3 generation and then applied to a wide range of nitroarenes, including traditionally challenging substrates. The method constitutes a practical reduction option which produces low-toxicity boric acid and potassium iodide upon workup. Check it out here: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.orglett.3c03257

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    C-F bond cleavage

    We are pursuing the use of boron Lewis acids as instigators of C-F bond cleavage. C–F bond halogen exchange can be accomplished using Lewis acidic boron reagents which offers numerous synthetic possibilities.


    Check out our recent review on C-F bond halogen exchange reactions featuring our group’s advances in activating CF3 groups using boron trihalides:



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    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:


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    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.

  • Publications

     Andrej Ćorković, Thomas Chiarella, Florence J. Williams

    Org. Lett. (2023). 25, 49, 8787-8791.

    Andrej Ćorković, Andreas Dorian, Florence J. Williams

    Synlett. (2023). 34, 03, 193-202.

    Khyati Gohil, M. Zain H. Kazmi, Florence J. Williams

    Org. Biomol. Chem. (2022). 11, 20, 2187-2193.

    Andreas Dorian, Emily Landgreen, Hayley Petras, James Shepherd, Florence J. Williams

    Chem. Eur. J. (2021). 42, 27, 10839-10843.

    M. Zain H. Kazmi, Abhoy Karmakar, Vladimir K. Michaelis and Florence J. Williams

    Tetrahedron. (2019). 75, 11, 1465-1470.

    Bren Jordan P. Atienza, Nam Truong and Florence J. Williams

    Organic Letters. (2018). 20, 20, 6332-6335.

    Florence J. Williams and Dorothea Fiedler

    ACS Chemical Biology. (2015). 10, 9, 1958-1963.

    Florence J. Williams, Robin E. Grote and Elizabeth R. Jarvo

    Chemical Communications. (2012). 48, 10, 1496-1498.

    Florence J. Williams and Elizabeth R. Jarvo

    Angewandte Chemie International Edition. (2011). 50, 4459-4462.

    Talha S. Siddiqui, Ashish Jani, Florence J. 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 J. Williams, Caleb Ulku and Arnold L. Rheingold

    Inorganica Chimica Acta. (2006). 359, 12, 3996-4000.

  • Group Members

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    Ashley Schneider

    PhD Candidate (6th 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.


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    Piyumi Wijesirigunawardana

    PhD Candidate (5th 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.


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    Andrej Ćorković

    PhD Candidate (4th 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.

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    Theodora Leventis

    PhD Candidate (4th year)

    Theodora is from Rolla, Missouri. Proud of her corn land heritage, she obtained her B.S. in chemistry and minor in mathematics at the University of Missouri-Columbia and now is a graduate student at UIowa working in the Williams research lab – she is Florence, and Theodora is The Machine. Her work involves using boron Lewis acids to cleave strong dialkyl C-O bonds. 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.


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    Thomas Chiarella

    PhD Candidate (3rd 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.

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    Heather Koska

    PhD Candidate (3rd 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.

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    Idowu Otunomo

    PhD Student (2nd year)

    Idowu is from Nigeria. She obtained her Master's degree in Chemistry from the University of Lagos, Nigeria.
    After graduation, she was employed as a Chemistry Lecturer in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. In 2019, she was awarded a research grant from the University of Nigeria to South Africa. She worked on Extraction, isolation and bioactivity of plant extract in collaboration with Prof. O. T. Asekun (University of Lagos) and Prof. Tom Ashafa (University of the Free State, South Africa).
    Currently, her interests lie in the synthesis of organic compounds.
    Idowu also enjoys reading, playing games and having nice time with her family.

    Group Alumni

    Bishnu Neupane

    Matthew Morris (REU)

    Zain Kazmi (UAlberta)

    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)