Purdue University Graduate School
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posted on 2019-08-16, 16:28 authored by Jacob J WerthJacob J Werth
Cyclopropanes are commonly found throughout synthetic and natural biologically active compounds. The Simmons–Smith cyclopropanation reaction is one of the most useful methods for converting an alkene into a cyclopropane. Zinc carbenoids are the active intermediate in the reaction, capable of delivering the methylene unit to a broad variety of substrates. Significant advances have been made in the field to increase overall efficiency of the reaction including the use of diethyl zinc as a precursor and allylic alcohols as directing groups.
Despite the many notable contributions in zinc carbenoid chemistry, persistent limitations of the Simmons–Smith reaction still exist. Zinc carbenoids exhibit poor steric discrimination in the presence of a polyolefin with minimal electronic bias. Additionally, due to the electrophilic nature of zinc carbenoid intermediates, the reaction performs inefficiently with electron-deficient olefins. Finally, alkyl-substituted zinc carbenoids are known to be quite unstable, limiting the potential for substituted cyclopropanation reactions.
In this work, we demonstrate that cobalt catalysis can be utilized to access novel cyclopropane products through the activation of dihaloalkanes. The content of this thesis will focus on the limitations of Zn carbenoid chemistry and addressing them with cobalt catalyzed, reductive cyclopropanations. In addition to this reactivity, we also demonstrate the dimethylcyclopropanation of activated alkenes to furnish valuable products applicable to natural product synthesis and pharmaceutically relevant compounds. Finally, we will show the unique character of the cobalt catalyzed cyclopropanation reaction through mechanistic experiments and characterization of reaction intermediates. In whole, these studies offer a complementary method to zinc carbenoid chemistry in producing novel and diverse cyclopropane products.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Chemistry

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Christopher Uyeda

Additional Committee Member 2

Suzanne Bart