Arnold C. Ott Lectureship in Chemistry

Melanie Sanford

Dr. Melanie Sanford

University of Michigan

Background Melanie Sanford received her B.S. and M.S. in Chemistry from Yale University (1996).  She worked with Robert Grubbs to earn her Ph.D. in 2001, and followed with post-doctoral work with John T. Groves at Princeton.  She became a Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Michigan in 2003, rising to the rank of Full Professor in 2013.  At Michigan, she has developed a highly active research group focused on C-H functionalization reactions, new methods for the fluorination of compounds and the development of flow batteries.  She has won numerous awards including a MacArthur Fellowship (2011) and the Sackler Prize (2013).  She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow for the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences.


The Arnold C. Ott Lectureship in Chemistry was created and endowed by a generous gift from Dr. Arnold C. Ott and Marion Ott. Dr. Ott received his Ph.D. in 1943 from Michigan State University in Chemistry/Physics/Bacteriology and is a leading chemist and entrepreneur in West Michigan. He is one of the co-founders of Grand Valley State University and served on the GVSU Board of Trustees for 28 years.

Public Lecture

Thursday, Apr. 4th       Reception: 5:00 pm    Evening Lecture: 6:00 pm

Location: Grand River Room, Russel H. Kirkhof Center, Allendale Campus

Parking:  For free parking during Thursday evening's public lecture, you can obtain a visitor's parking pass by contacting Dave Leonard

Title: New Ways to Make Molecules: From Fundamental Science to Applications in Medical Imaging and Drug Development

Abstract:  Chemical synthesis, the controlled formation of chemical bonds, is a key foundation of modern society. Nearly every product that we interact with in our daily lives (for example, plastics, personal care products, fuels, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, medical imaging agents) is generated via chemical synthesis. At present, the synthesis of chemicals accounts for nearly 10% of the world’s energy usage, thus emphasizing the scale of such processes worldwide. Despite their ubiquity, many industrial-scale chemical synthesis processes remain highly hazardous and energy intensive, and they often generate large amounts of waste. The central motivation for my group’s research is to address these shortcomings by developing more efficient and greener ways to break and form important chemical bonds. This lecture will focus on one aspect of that work, namely the development of new ways to form carbon–fluorine bonds. These bonds appear in >30% of pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and PET imaging agents and are typically formed using corrosive, toxic, and wasteful processes. This lecture will describe our new approach to form these bonds using transition metal catalysts. The lecture will describe the basic scientific principles underpinning these research efforts as well as the types of applications that are now possible after 10 years of research in this area. More specifically, it will illustrate how this research program started out as a fundamental, basic research investigation but rapidly evolved to encompass applications in medical imaging and agrochemical synthesis. A central part of the story involves the ways that extremely talented graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, biomedical scientists, and industrial partners have helped to shape the evolution of these research efforts in exciting and often unexpected ways.


Chemistry Seminar

Friday, Apr. 5th      Time: 1:00 pm

Location: Pere Marquette Room, Russel H. Kirkhof Center, Allendale Campus

Parking:  For free parking during Friday's Chemistry seminar, you can obtain a visitor's parking pass by contacting Dave Leonard)

Title:  Developing Organic and Inorganic Molecules for Electrical Energy Storage

Abstract:  This presentation will describe our group's recent efforts in the design of organic and inorganic molecules for applications in redox flow batteries. It will show how physical organic chemistry and predictive modeling approaches can be used to optimize molecular properties that are critical for this application, including redox potential, stability, solubility, and cross-over. These fundamental advances are leveraged to implement some of the first high potential, high energy density flow batteries in non-aqueous media.

Previous Ott Lecturers

Vernon Ehlers, Ph.D.
U.S. Congress

Michael D. Parker, M.B.A.
Dow Chemical Company

Carl Djerassi, Ph.D.
Stanford University

Robin D. Rogers, Ph.D.
University of Alabama

Virginia W. Cornish, Ph.D.
Columbia University

Richard N. Zare, Ph.D.
Stanford University

Thomas H. Lane, Ph.D.
Dow Corning Corporation

Chad A. Mirkin, Ph.D.
Northwestern University

Gregory A. Petsko, Ph.D.
Brandeis University

Harry B. Gray, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology

Gary M. Hieftje, Ph.D.
Indiana University

Roderick MacKinnon, M.D.
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
The Rockefeller University

Kevan Shokat, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco

Ada Yonath, Ph.D.
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Weizmann Institute of Science

W. Carl Lineberger, Ph.D.
University of Colorado, Boulder

Richmond Sarpong, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley

Jeffrey Moore, Ph.D.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Wilson Ho, Ph.D.
University of California, Irvine

Geraldine Richmond, Ph.D.
University of Oregon

Sara E. Skrabalak, Ph.D.
Indiana University

Thomas J. Meyer, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Brian K. Shoichet, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco

Daniel M. Neumark, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley

Stephen L. Buchwald, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Page last modified March 1, 2019