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Second Prize

Therapeutic Illumination

David Nagib (GS)
Department of Chemistry
In order to overcome the loss in entropy associated with synthesizing medicine and other important molecules for society, chemists must exploit sacrificial, non-renewable resources to perform desired redox transformations. Our laboratory has sought to eliminate this wasteful practice by employing a photosynthesis mimicking strategy, where catalysts harness energy from sunlight and transfer this energy in the form of electrons to accomplish challenging synthetic feats without the requisite associated waste. Recently, we have developed the world’s first method of selectively introducing the medicinally vital trifluoromethyl unit to the alpha position of a carbonyl group (nature’s most popular functionality), and by this strategy have done so in a non-wasteful and energetically renewable fashion. Our submission depicts our experimental investigations employing an energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulb to excite a variety of colored photocatalysts, which set in motion the events that led to our discovered reaction. (The orange one was eventually the winner).