Source: Interfolio F180

Donna Blackmond

Professor, Department of Chemistry; The John C. Martin Endowed Chair in Chemistry
Department of Chemistry


Research Focus

Kinetic Methodology. Blackmond has pioneered the development of Reaction Progress Kinetic Analysis (RPKA), a methodology combining highly accurate in-situ data collection with a rigorous mathematical analysis that permits rapid determination of concentration dependencies of reactants. In contrast to the classical role of kinetics, in which measurements of concentration dependences most often are asked simply to corroborate a previously proposed mechanism, the Blackmond group's approach is to employ kinetic studies at the outset of an investigation of ill-defined reaction network to suggest reaction mechanisms. This 'kinetic-assisted mechanistic analysis' aids in the design of further supporting experiments including conventional mechanistic tools such as studies of isotope effects and spectroscopic studies for structural and compositional information. One of the most powerful aspects of the methodology is its ability to deconvolute rate processes occurring on the catalytic cycle from those occurring off the cycle. Prominent examples of the application of this methodology to quantitative understanding of complex organic reactions and reaction networks include asymmetric hydrogenation, asymmetric organocatalytic reactions, Pd-catalyzed C-C and C-N bond forming reactions, and transition-metal catalyzed competitive reactions including kinetic resolutions. Reaction Progress Kinetic Analysis finds important application in the pharmaceutical industry, where streamlining process R&D based on Blackmond's kinetic analysis is becoming an industry-wide standard.

Nonlinear effects of catalyst enantiopurity. Experimental and theoretical studies in the Blackmond group have derived relationships between catalyst ee and reaction rate that complement the standard tool of studying product ee as a function of catalyst ee. Prof. Blackmond's work provides a means of testing proposed models for nonlinear effects and expands the power of studies of nonlinear effects to serve as a meaningful mechanistic probe. The concepts developed in this work led Prof. Blackmond to consideration of what has been termed the 'ultimate nonlinear effect', that of the origin of biological homochirality. She carried out the first kinetic studies and developed the first kinetic model exploring the mechanism of asymmetric amplification in the Soai autocatalytic reaction. She continues investigations of this reaction, with current projects focusing on determining the nature of the transition state species in this reaction as well as probing spatiotemporal aspects of absolute asymmetric synthesis by carrying out autocatalysis in well-defined microfluidic reactor networks.

Biological homochirality and amino acid phase behavior. More recently Prof. Blackmond has expanded the range of models to rationalize the origin of biological homochirality from proposals based purely on chemical reactions to those based on physical phase behavior of chiral molecules as well as a combination of chemical and physical processes. She has demonstrated that highly enantioenriched solutions of amino acids can be produced from nearly racemic mixtures via solution-solid partitioning of the enantiomers. Reactions catalyzed by amino acids that are carried out in such systems show nonlinear product ee consistent with this highly enantioenriched solution composition. This concept was then greatly expanded in scope with the discovery that eutetic compositions could be 'tuned' by judicious choice of additives that alter crystal structure and solubility. In sharp contrast to autocatalytic reaction models, which invoke 'far-from-equilibrium' behavior, this eutectic model is a pure equilibrium treatment. This distinction has important implications for scenarios concerning the time course over which the evolution of homochirality may have developed. Probing the phase behavior of amino acids in conjunction with solution racemization led to separate work showing how one hand of a chiral solid could be transformed completely into its enantiomorph from a nearly racemic mixture of the two. Because interconversion in solution allows an enantiomer that had been part of an L crystal to become part of a D crystal, this has been dubbed the 'chiral amnesia' process.


Ph.D. (Chemical Engineering), Carnegie Mellon University, 1984
M.S. (Chemical Engineering), University of Pittsburgh, 1981
B.S. (Chemical Engineering), University of Pittsburgh, 1980

Professional Experience

2004-2010 Chair in Catalysis, Imperial College London
2004-2010 Professor of Chemistry, Imperial College London
2004-2010 Professor of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London
1999-2003 Professor and Chair in Physical Chemistry, University of Hull
1996-1999 Group Leader, Max Planck Institute for Coal Research
1992-1999 Adjunct Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh
1995-1996 Professor of Technical Chemistry, University of Essen
1992-1995 Associate Director, Technical Operations, Merck & Co., Inc.
1989-1992 Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and BP America Faculty Fellow, University of Pittsburgh
1984-1989 Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh

Awards & Professional Activities

2021 Member of the US National Academy of Sciences
2020 TED 2020 Invited Speaker
2020 Member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
2020 Oparin Medal of the International Society for Studies on the Origin of Life (ISSOL)
2020 Humboldt-Forschungspreis, Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung
Distinguished Women in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering, The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC)
2019 Bristol Chemical Synthesis Syngenta Award
2018 Irving Wender Award for Creative Research in Catalysis, PCCS
2016 Elected member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
2016 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists (AIC)
2016 Gabor A. Somorjai Award for Creative Research in Catalysis, American Chemical Society
2013 Elected member, US National Academy of Engineering
2013 Simons Investigator, Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Origins of Life
2009 Physical Organic Chemistry Award (Sir Christopher Ingold Award), Royal Society of Chemistry
2007 Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award, The Royal Society of London
2006 Invited Speaker, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, National Science Foundation, American Chemical Society
2003 Paul Rylander Award, Organic Reactions Catalysis Society
2003 Royal Society of Chemistry Award in Process Technology
2003 Miller Foundation Visiting Professorship, University of California-Berkeley
2002 Woodward Visiting Scholar, Harvard University
Paul H. Emmett Award in Fundamental Catalysis, North American Catalysis Society
2000 Mary Fieser Visiting Lectureship, Harvard University
Max-Planck-Society Award for Outstanding Women Scientists
1989 BP America Faculty Fellowship
1985 National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award
1981 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship
1976 National Merit Scholarship

Selected Publications

Viedma, C.; Ortiz, J. E.; de Torres, T.; Izumi, T.; Blackmond, Donna Evolution of solid phase homochirality for a proteinogenic amino acid. Journal of the American Chemical Society 2008, 130, 15274-15275.

Zotova, N.; Franzke, A.; Armstrong, A.; Blackmond, Donna Clarification of the role of water in proline-mediated aldol reactions. Journal of the American Chemical Society 2007, 129, 15100-15101.

Klussmann, M.; Iwamura, H.; Mathew, S. P.; Wells, D. H.; Pandya, U.; Armstrong, A.; Blackmond, Donna Thermodynamic control of asymmetric amplification in amino acid catalysis. Nature 2006, 441, 621-623.

Blackmond, Donna Reaction progress kinetic analysis: a powerful methodology for mechanistic studies of complex catalytic reactions. Angewandte Chemie-International Edition 2005, 44, 4302-4320.