Assistant Professor Noah Burns’ research explores the boundaries of modern organic synthesis to more rapidly create species of the highest molecular complexity. Projects in the Burns Lab take particular inspiration from natural products, not only for their importance as synthetic targets, but also for their potential to identify important unanswered scientific questions.
Noah Burns was born in Oakland, California, but grew up in south central Maine. He studied chemistry at Columbia University (B.A. 2004 summa cum laude), under the mentorship of Professor James Leighton. His doctoral work with Professor Phil Baran at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California (Ph.D. 2009) addressed the synthesis of haouamine A, a marine alkaloid. He then developed a catalytic enantioselective [5+2] cycloaddition as an NIH postdoctoral fellow with Professor Eric Jacobsen at Harvard University. He joined the Stanford Chemistry Department faculty in 2012, and was named a Terman Fellow in 2013.
Today, the Burns Lab focuses major efforts on the selective halogenation of organic molecules. Dihalogenation and halofunctionalization encompass some of the most fundamental transformations in our field, yet methods capable of accessing relevant halogenated motifs in a chemo-, regio-, and enantioselective fashion are lacking. Breakthroughs in this area could enable the controlled evaluation of the therapeutic potential of numerous chiral organohalogens.
The group also explores the practical total synthesis of natural products where there is true impetus for their construction due to unanswered chemical, medicinal, biological, and/or biophysical questions. Lab members are specifically engaged in the construction of unusual lipids with intriguing physical properties, for which synthesis offers a unique opportunity for study.