Wright State University
College of Science and Mathematics

Department of Chemistry

202 Oelman Hall
(937) 775-2855

Kenneth turnbull, ph.d. - student & postdoc opportunities


The Turnbull research laboratory stands ready to welcome enthusiastic students who are interested in enhancing their skills in organic synthesis with biologically active targets. In general, the standard techniques used in my research laboratory are refinements of those developed in the introductory organic chemistry laboratories, namely recrystallization, thin layer chromatography (TLC), column chromatography, infrared and nmr spectroscopies, however, students may be exposed also to the handling of air-sensitive reactants and reagents under inert gasses at low temperature. Typically, group members meet on a weekly basis to discuss findings, supporting chemistry and related topics.  Such occasions are used also to hone presentation skills, since effective communication is a hallmark of the scientific endeavor. Writing skills are emphasized also.

Research Topics

1. Anticancer/ Antiviral Compounds

       Some C-nucleosides (DNA or RNA precursors), e.g. pyrazofurin, have proven effective in anticancer strategies.  We are preparing analogous compounds by more efficient routes.  Additionally, the synthesis of congeners of the anti-herpes drug, acyclovir, is underway.

2.  Sydnone Antihypertensives (Just Say NO)

       Remarkably, the unstable gas, nitric oxide (NO), plays several major roles in the body, key amongst which is vasodilation (i.e. expansion of an artery) with consequent lowering of blood pressure.  One of the most effective antihypertensives is Molsidomin (a sydnone analog) which is now known to exert its effect by release of NO due to enzymatic activation.  We are preparing Molsidomin relatives (uncle, cousin, etc.) and numerous stress-relieving projects are available.

3.  Polymer Supported Reagents

       The advantages of such species are reduction in odor (of otherwise smelly reactions), facile removal of reaction by-products and ability to recycle the reagent.  Various useful reactions (Staudinger, Aza-Wittig, etc.) are being subjected to conditions of polymeric tethering, with interesting results.  Extension to combinatorial protocols also is underway.

4.  Photochromic Compounds

       Photochromism is the reversible process whereby a substance which was colorless becomes colored (often blue) on exposure to light.  Removal of the radiation allows color reversal.  Applications are multitudinous and include optical memories, radiation densitometers and photochromic eyeglasses.  Projects available will involve synthesis of modified pyridinyl sydnones, analogs of known photochromes, with a view to rendering them more efficient, since those currently known switch back and forth on the geological time-scale!

5.  Non-Linear Optical (NLO) Materials

       Certain metal polyynes exhibit nonlinear optical properties and, accordingly, they show much promise as potential optical limiting materials for the protection of eyes and sensors from laser threats.  Such materials are being synthesized in order to establish structure / property relationships.

6.  Neutrophil Phospholipase D (PLD) Inhibitors

       With Prof. Julian Gomez-Cambronero, Physiology, we are attempting to find a selective inhibitor of PLD, with a view to ameliorating the devastating effects of the ischemia / reperfusion pathological condition.  Starting from a known serine protease inhibitor AEBSF, and using combinatorial organic synthesis methods, we are trying to synthesize a phospholipase D (PLD) inhibitor able to enter a living cell through its membrane. An inhibitor of this class will potentially block the lethal effect of free oxygen radicals that cause neutrophil-derived damage to heart tissue.


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