Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Beak, Peter
Location University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Primary Field Chemistry
 Election Citation
Beak has made major contributions in physical organic chemistry and organic synthesis. His research focuses on organic compounds of lithium using spectroscopic and calorimetric approaches. This work has been of immense importance to the synthesis of fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
 Research Interests
I am interested in the structures and reactions of organic compounds with an initial focus on matters which do not fit conventional wisdom. By spectroscopic and calorimetric studies we determined that the relative energies of functional groups which are protomeric or alkymeric isomers can be greatly affected by the molecular environment and provided a phenomenological model for the effect. In studies of reactions of organolithium compounds, we investigated thiophillic additions, delineated functional group directed remote lithiations, and established the intermediacy of dipole stabilized carbanions. This class of carbanions have been developed to be useful in synthesis and used to elucidate the role of pre-equilibrium complexes as a model for novel reactions in organolithium chemistry. In studies of asymmetric synthesis using these species, we differentiated the roles of asymmetric deprotonation and asymmetric substitution in controlling the course of reactions and developed diastereomeric equilibration as a procedure for significantly improving enantiomeric ratios. Our investigations of transition structures in displacement reactions by organolithium compounds led to the development of endocyclic reactions as strategy which reveals the geometry of substitutions at nonstereogenic atoms. This approach has proven useful more broadly for evaluating reaction trajectories.

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