Research Expertise and Interest

inorganic chemistry, organometallic chemistry, catalysis, organic chemistry

Research Description

John Hartwig is the Henry Rapoport Chair in Organic Chemistry.  Professor Hartwig's research group focuses on the discovery and understanding of new reactions of organic compounds catalyzed by transition metal complexes and artificial metalloenzymes. These findings result from a combination of organic synthesis, organometallic synthesis, protein design and evolution, and mechanistic analysis of catalytic systems.

The Hartwig group is currently investigating both small-molecule catalysts and artificial metalloenzymes for selective reactions of organic molecules. These reactions include the selective catalytic functionalization of alkanes and arenes, cross-couplings to form aryl and allyl amines and ethers, α-aryl and α-allyl carbonyl derivatives, methods for the fluorination and fluoroalkylation of arenes, additions to alkenes, methods to prepare chemicals and polymers from renewable chemical feedstocks, and hydrocarbyl functionalization reactions catalyzed by artificial metalloenzymes that combine the reactivity of transition-metal catalysts with the selectivity and evolutionary potential of enzymes. His group has conducted extensive mechanistic investigations of each of these types of reactions. Through these studies, they have revealed several new classes of organometallic reactions, including reductive eliminations, discrete compounds that functionalize alkanes, unusual three-coordinate arylpalladium complexes that are intermediates in cross-coupling, the first compounds that oxidatively add ammonia to form monomeric products, and the first transition-metal amido and alkoxo complexes that insert unactivated alkenes. In addition to these research activities he has authored a leading textbook in organometallic chemistry, titled Organotransition Metal Chemistry: From Bonding to Catalysis.

In the News

Synthetic biology moves into the realm of the unnatural

A collaboration between synthetic chemists and synthetic biologists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has now overcome that hurdle, engineering bacteria that can make a molecule that, until now, could only be synthesized in a laboratory.

Upcycling: Turning plastic bags into adhesives

While many cities and eight states have banned single-use plastics, bags and other polyethylene packaging still clog landfills and pollute rivers and oceans. One major problem with recycling polyethylene, which makes up one-third of all plastic production worldwide, is economic: Recycled bags end up in low-value products, such as decks and construction material, providing little incentive to reuse the waste.

Professor John Hartwig awarded the 2019 Wolf Prize in Chemistry

John F. Hartwig from University of California at Berkeley and Stephen L. Buchwald from MIT, awarded the 2019 Wolf Prize for Chemistry for the development of efficient transition-metal catalysts that have revolutionized drug manufacturing, leading to a breakthrough in molecule and synthetics design. 

Four UC Berkeley scientists elected to National Academy of Sciences

Four University of California, Berkeley, faculty members – physicists John Clarke and Bernard Sadoulet, chemist John Hartwig and ecologist Mary Power – have been elected members or foreign associates of the National Academy of Sciences, bringing UC Berkeley’s total NAS membership to 141.

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