Research Guides

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

Professor J. Robertson


My group’s research is split roughly evenly between natural product synthesis and synthetic methodology development. Uniting these two strands is a desire to discover new molecular transformations and gain a deeper understanding of reactivity and selectivity.

Natural product synthesis

Within the natural product area we place an emphasis on targets with cancer-relevant biological activities and our group participates in the Cancer Research UK cancer medicinal chemistry studentship programme. The recent targets shown below illustrate the complex molecular frameworks and dense arrays of functionality whose assembly stimulates new approaches to synthesis in our group.

Mechanism-driven synthetic methodology

In parallel with target-driven methodology development we also start from considerations of mechanistic possibilities. Examples of this approach include radical translocation/cyclisation cascades, silatropic ene reactions and other pericyclic rearrangements, the creation and trapping of ‘high chemical potential’ intermediates, and furan oxidative spirocyclisations. We try to highlight the potential application of these new synthetic transformations within targeted syntheses so, in our group at least, there is a continually evolving cycle in which methodology and target synthesis feed off each other.

These research activities provide a thorough training in organic chemistry and, to date, everyone who has gained a doctorate in my group has continued their career within chemistry, either in post doctoral positions or within the chemical industry. For further details and a current list of publications see our group web pages.

Access to a Guanacastepene and Cortistatin-Related Skeleton via Ethynyl Lactone Ireland–Claisen Rearrangement and Transannular (4+3)-Cycloaddition of an Azatrimethylenemethane Diyl
Org. Lett. 201719, 2174
Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids: Occurrence, Biology, and Chemical Synthesis
Nat. Prod. Rep. 201734, 62
Imidazolidin-4-ones via a Cytochrome P450-Catalyzed Intramolecular C-H Amination
ACS Catal. 20166, 6833
Novel Ketone Diet Enhances Physical and Cognitive Performance
FASEB J. 201630, 4021
Unique Metabolites Protect Earthworms Against Plant Polyphenols
Nat. Commun. 2015, 6:786
Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids
Nat. Prod. Rep. 2014, 31, 1721
Synthesis of Pandamarilactone-1
Org. Lett. 2014, 16, 884
Synthesis of NP25302
Org. Lett. 2011, 13, 5964
Stereospecificity in the Au-Catalysed Cyclisation of Monoallylic Diols. Synthesis of (+)-Isoaltholactone
Chem. Commun. 2011, 47, 7659
Synthesis of Taurospongin A
Org. Lett. 2010, 12, 2818