The Group

The PI: Nicholas Leadbeater

Dr. L.  was born in Birmingham, England which was the center of the Industrial Revolution. He was an undergraduate at the nearby University of Nottingham where he obtained a first-class honors degree in Chemistry. It was during this time he first became interested in alternative methods for making molecules. He did his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge Chemistry Department under the supervision of Professor Lord Lewis of Newnham and Dr. (now Professor) Paul Raithby. His work was focused around the use of photochemistry as a tool for the preparation of new organometallic complexes. He stayed at Cambridge as a University Research Fellow at Girton College. During this time he started working in the area of polymer-supported catalysis. In 1999 he moved to King's College London to take up a lectureship and a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. While there he initiated his program of research using microwave heating in synthetic chemistry. In 2003 he was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry's Harrison Medal. He moved over the Atlantic in 2004 to his current position at the University of Connecticut. Dr. L. obtained tenure in 2010, becoming an Associate Professor, and that same year he was awarded the University of Connecticut Excellence in Teaching award for the Physical Sciences. In 2011, he was awarded a Faculty Development Abroad grant that allowed him to travel to a number of centers of excellence in green chemistry around the world, as well as clock up the air-miles (not so green). Wearing his "communicating science to the general public" hat, Dr. L. has contributed a number of "Academic Minutes" on a local National Public Radio station, talking about topics as diverse as green chemistry, chirality, biofuels, why the sky is blue, and a three-part series on the chemistry in the hit TV show “Breaking Bad”. He also was a speaker at the Inaugural TED Talks UCONN event in the Fall of 2013, talking about 21st Century Alchemy. When not doing chemistry, Dr. L. enjoys cooking (perhaps that's why he likes organic chemistry), wine, Starbucks coffee, travelling, driving around in his blue VW Beetle, modern civil aviation, and receiving mention in Chemical & Engineering News.

Current Group: Graduate Students

Shelli Miller (Fall 2014-)  graduated from Central Cambria High School, PA in 2009, and then in 2013 from Cedar Crest College with her Bachelor's degree in chemistry with a concentration in forensic science and a minor in math. She spent a year working at Silliker, a food quality assurance company, before moving to the University of Connecticut to start her graduate studies. She has investigated methodologies for the preparation of amides and the oxidation of terminal diols. Currently, her research is focused on probing new organoselenium chemistry. In her free time, Shelli likes to play video games, watch anime, and spend time with her cat, Stark, and her dog, Luna.

Jyoti Nandi (Fall 2015-)  from ‘City of Joy” Kolkata, India which is famous for its cultural festivals, art galleries and food. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from University of Calcutta in 2012. As a part of her M.Sc. degree, she worked on several areas including the synthesis of indenopiperidine moiety-containing compounds using LDA reaction, transition metal-mediated Ullmann-type coupling for the synthesis of biaryls using a grignard reaction, and copper catalyzed hydroxylation of ortho-bromobenzylic alcohols, under the supervision of Dr. G. Satyanarayana of the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad. After, she worked as an Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS) Fellow under the supervision of Prof. T.S. Lobana at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, before moving to the University of Connecticut to pursue her PhD. In her free time she loves listening music, trekking, hiking and spending time with her dear ones.

Current Group: Undergraduate Students

John Ovian (Spring 2014-) graduated from Daniel Hand High School in Madison, Connecticut in 2013 and is pursuing B.S./M.S. dual degrees in chemistry with a minor in mathematics at UConn as a member of the Honors Program. He met Dr. Leadbeater during the honors organic chemistry course and was encouraged to join the group. He was awarded the Holster Scholar First-Year Project, a prestigious grant for honors freshmen, which allowed him to perform an independent research project during the summer of 2014. His research focuses on synthetic methodology development using oxoammonium salts, including allyl ether cleavage, oxidative nitrile formation from aldehydes, oxidative ring opening of cyclic ethers, and oxidative amidation of aldehydes and alcohols. He has also investigated the mechanistic pathway for oxoammonium salt oxidations. During the summer of 2015, John performed research in the group of Professor Neil Garg at the University of California, Los Angeles as a part of the Amgen Scholars Program. He was also selected for membership in the University Scholars Program, UConn’s highest academic honor, and Phi Beta Kappa. John was named a 2016 Barry Goldwater Scholar and awarded the NCHC Portz Fellowship. Additionally, he serves as a teaching assistant for both the honors organic and general chemistry sequences, Peer Research Ambassador, committee chair on the CLAS Student Leadership Board, and mentor for the Peer Allies Through Honors program. When not working in the lab, John enjoys singing as director of UConn's coed a cappella group Extreme Measures, running, and snowboarding.

Vincent Pistritto (Spring 2015-) graduated from Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, CT in 2014 as valedictorian of his class. He is currently pursuing his B.S. in Chemistry as well as a B.A. in general music at UConn as a member of the Honors Program. As part of a 2015 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, he developed a methodology using an oxoammonium salt to achieve the oxidative cleavage of silyl ethers, resulting in a publication in the journal Synlett. In 2016, he worked on the development of a method for the oxidative amidation of alcohols and aldehydes to access N-acyl azoles. He also spent the 2016 summer at Pfizer Inc. Research Headquarters in Groton, CT developing a cross-electrophile coupling reaction mediated by nickel catalysis. More recently, Vincent was named a University Scholar at UConn. His research project will attempt to merge photocatalysis with an environmentally friendly oxidant to access trifluoromethyl ketones. Additionally, he has been nominated by the University of Connecticut for the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. In his free time, he is an avid runner and clarinet player, serving as a member of the UConn Wind Ensemble. In addition, Vincent is the lead student coordinator for the Honors Initiative for Prospective Students and a volunteer with Special Olympics.

Josh Paolillo (Spring 2017-) graduated from North Haven High School in 2015 and is currently pursuing a B.S. in chemistry. He met Dr. L in an introduction to research class, and after enjoying his first experience in chemical research decided to join the group. He is currently working on an organoselenium project. In his free time he enjoy going to the gym, playing sports, and playing videogames, along with being the vice president of the UConn Chemistry Club.

Mason Witko (Spring 2017-) graduated from Clarkstown High School North in New City, NY in 2016 and is currently pursuing a B.S. in chemistry as a member of the Honors Program. He joined the group as a result of his involvement with the Holster Scholar Program and hopes to become more involved in chemical research in the future. Outside of the lab, Mason likes to play video games, read webcomics, and draw.

Former Group Members

UConn: Chemistry University of Connecticut
55 North Eagleville Rd

Storrs, CT 06269-3060

Phone: 860-617-3518
Designed by Christopher Kelly
Last Updated: J. Ovian, Feb 2017