Nathaniel Finney was born in Urbana, Illinois, USA, where he graduated from the University High School in 1984. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois, graduating with Honors in Chemistry in 1988. He was the first recipient of the Carl Shipp Marvel award for outstanding undergraduate research. He completed his graduate work at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, USA, under the supervision of Andrew Myers. His doctoral work comprised the development of a new method for the synthesis of allenes based on the oxidative rearrangement of propargylic hydrazines, the low-temperature characterization of the monoalkyldiazene intermediates involved in this reaction, and the synthesis of highly-reactive unsaturated hydrocarbons. Following receipt of his Ph.D. in 1993, he spent 3 years as an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow with Eric Jacobsen at Harvard University, where he studied the mechanism of the Jacobsen Epoxidation and initiated the group’s efforts in the application of combinatorial chemistry to catalyst discovery. From 1997 – 2004, Nathaniel Finney was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego. He moved to a permanent position in the Organic Chemistry Institute at the University of Zurich in 2004. He has authored over 40 papers in internationally-recognized journals as well as several patents.
Research in the Finney group is focused on the interface between molecular structure and electronic and photophysical properties. Our primary efforts have been in the development of fluorescent chemosensors – molecules whose fluorescence changes in response to a molecular recognition event. Fluorescent chemosensors are powerful tool in analytical chemistry, where they can be used to detect, e.g., explosives and pesticides, as well as in biology and medicine, where they have found application for blood analysis and cellular imaging.
To this end we have pioneered a new signaling mechanism, in which substrate binding restricts the excited-state dynamics of a fluorophore, leading to fluorescence enhancement. This in turn has allowed us to undertake the discovery of new fluorescent chemosensors by the construction of solid-phase combinatorial libraries. In addition, we have devoted significant effort to new synthetic methods for the synthesis of polyarylpyridines, our current preferred class of fluorophores.
New efforts in the group include the synthesis of thiophene/pyridine oligomers anticipated to have novel electronic and optical properties, as well as the development of fluorescent probes for the detection of explosives, nerve agents and pesticides.
The following topics are covered by our present research projects:
♦ Chemical sensor design and discovery
♦ Synthesis of novel fluorescent heterocycles
♦ Design and synthesis of low band-gap materials