Solving problems in inventive ways is one of David MacMillan’s trademarks, and it has led to him essentially inventing two new fields of research.
One, organocatalysis, for which he is receiving the Nobel Prize, finds revolutionary ways to design and build small organic molecules to drive chemical reactions. These organocatalysts, which are greener than traditional metal catalysts, are used to construct new drugs and materials, and their impact is immeasurable, reaching from industrial applications to pharmaceuticals to everyday products like clothing, shampoo, carpet fibers and more.
“All scientists have so many ideas along the way,” MacMillan said. “We have way more ideas than ever succeed — but this one took off, and it took off like gangbusters.”
He is also a pioneer in photocatalysis, his research focus for the past 15 years, which uses light — ordinary, visible light — to break and rejoin atomic bonds, one electron at a time.
Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications, Wendy Plump and Jamie Saxon contributed to this story | Princeton University | Oct. 6, 2021
Photo Credit: Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications, Princeton University