MacMillan, who has been at Caltech since 2000, focuses on new approaches to organic synthesis, with particular interest in design of new reactions, enantioselective catalysis using organic chemicals, and synthesis of natural products and biologically important molecules. The usefulness of enantioselective catalysis can be seen in studying biological products and pharmaceuticals. Many organic compounds and pharmaceuticals can exist in either "right-handed" or "left-handed" forms. But in most cases, only one of the two forms is effective; the other is either inactive or harmful. MacMillan's enantioselective catalysts allow the preparation of just the active form, increasing the efficiency of synthesis and reducing the likelihood of unwanted side effects. Insights gained from new enantioselective catalysis reactions can be used to create more efficient drugs as well as to replicate complex natural products.
The Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship program was established in 1955 by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., who was the chief executive officer of General Motors for 23 years. Its objective is to encourage research by young scholars at a time in their careers when other support may be difficult to obtain. It is the oldest program of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and one of the oldest fellowship programs in the country. In the past, 26 Sloan Fellows have later won Nobel Prizes for their scientific accomplishments.
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