Corinna Schindler

Corinna Schindler

Vitals

Current affiliation: University of Michigan

Age: 36

Ph.D. alma mater: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich

Role models: Crystallographer Jack Dunitz, biosynthesis expert Duilio Arigoni, and synthetic chemist Dieter Seebach, emeriti faculty at ETH Zurich. Their “level of enthusiasm and commitment to the younger generation of scientists has always impressed me.”

If I weren’t a chemist, I would be: An architect. “I always liked building things.”

Legend has it that the morning Corinna Schindler defended her doctoral thesis, she told Erick Carreira, her mentor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, that she planned to do a few more experiments in the afternoon, postdefense. “I thought she was joking,” he remembers. “She was serious!” While most newly minted Ph.D.s would be exhausted or ready to spend the afternoon celebrating, Schindler had some ideas she wanted to follow up on.

“Corinna ranks as one of the most ambitious, dedicated, and hardworking students I have ever encountered, with a sharp intellect to match,” Carreira says. “She is fearless in taking on all sorts of challenges in science.”

Schindler’s lab at the University of Michigan focuses on developing new reactions to make molecules that are important in materials science and medicine. “What is really interesting and exciting to us is that we can use reagents that are environmentally benign, cheap, easy to handle, and abundant, so there’s little impact on the environment,” Schindler explains. The goal, she says, is to replace reagents based on precious metals that will eventually run out.

Research at a glance


Schindler focuses on replacing precious-metal-based reagents with more abundant, environmentally friendly ones. She developed this iron-catalyzed carbonyl-olefin metathesis reaction to avoid the use of molybdenum reagents. Credit: Yang H. Ku/C&EN/Shutterstock

Schindler focuses on replacing precious-metal-based reagents with more abundant, environmentally friendly ones. She developed this iron-catalyzed carbonyl-olefin metathesis reaction to avoid the use of molybdenum reagents.
Credit: Yang H. Ku/C&EN/Shutterstock

Last year, Schindler’s group reported a carbonyl-olefin metathesis reaction that’s catalyzed by iron. Previous examples of this type of reaction required an equal ratio of carbonyl compounds to molybdenum reagents (which can be expensive and environmentally harmful). Many had tried to create a catalytic version of the reaction, but Schindler was the first to succeed. Next, Schindler hopes to use the reactions her lab has been developing to make complex molecules that could be used as treatments for cancer or inflammatory disorders.

As a mentor, Schindler tries to instill in her students that it’s important to think unconventionally. “Many young students can be very creative but are also worried about making suggestions because they feel like they don’t know everything yet,” she says. “It’s not necessary that you know every aspect of organic chemistry to come up with creative solutions to problems.”

Three key papers

“Mechanistic Investigations of the Iron(III)-Catalyzed Carbonyl-Olefin Metathesis Reaction” (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b05641)

“Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons via Iron(III)-Catalyzed Carbonyl-Olefin Metathesis” (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b01114)

“Iron(III)-Catalysed Carbonyl-Olefin Metathesis”(Nature 2016, DOI: 10.1038/nature17432)

Stories in C&EN about Schindler’s work:

Robust route for carbonyl-olefin metathesis

Vitals

Current affiliation: University of Michigan

Age: 36

Ph.D. alma mater: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich

Role models: Crystallographer Jack Dunitz, biosynthesis expert Duilio Arigoni, and synthetic chemist Dieter Seebach, emeriti faculty at ETH Zurich. Their “level of enthusiasm and commitment to the younger generation of scientists has always impressed me.”

If I weren’t a chemist, I would be: An architect. “I always liked building things.”

Ashish Kulkarni
Staff Sheehan