Lab Phone: 217-581-7473 - - - - - Prof. Black Home Phone: 217-359-3733 (FLY-FREE)

    I knew this time would come some day, but had no inkling it would be upon us as soon as it was.  Due to several factors, in mid-2006, I decided I must retire from EIU, effective immediately.  My official departure date was January 17, 2007, but I was not physically present for much of 2006. The group ran strongly for a great two decades, and no one can say that we didn't accomplish a lot more than anyone thought possible, particularly in originating two major areas of investigation that are now being examined and utilized in groups all over the world: the synthesis and uses of β-lactones, and the use of DMAP and its derivatives to enable the acylation of highly delocalized enolate systems.     

    Our research efforts focused on the invention, development, and utilization of new organic reactions for the synthesis of naturally occurring molecules, usually those with significant pharmacological activity.  We also became involved with EIU pharmacologist Prof. Kip McGilliard in synthesizing xanthine analogs and assessing their potential as selective pulmonary stimulants.  The beneficiaries would be the millions of neonatal infants, with their underdeveloped lungs and overactive hearts.  We finally succeeded in synthesizing 1-propylxanthine, our prototypical target molecule, which is being assayed for selectivity and strength. If this or a derivative fit our profile, it could potentially save millions of young lives, in addition to generating excellent patent royalties.    

    We initiated research on two general types of rearrangement reactions: 1. The Synthesis and Chemistry of β-Lactones. For over 20 years, we discovered new and fascinating uses for these versatile molecules. 2. The Synthesis and Evaluation of Chiral Dimethylaminopyridine (DMAP) Derivatives as Carbon Acylation Catalysts. Originally utilized for regioselective acyl transfer reactions, the ultimate aim was to enable the enantioselective synthesis of complex bioactive molecules featuring chiral quaternary (4°) carbon atoms. These crowded entities pose notoriously difficult synthetic challenges, especially when the control of stereochemistry is involved.     

    During the lifetime of the research group, over 130 research students experienced the thrills of discovering and developing new organic synthetic reactions and then synthesizing naturally occurring compounds with medicinal value. Many people then went on to earn their Ph.D. degrees, with several instead going on to medical school. Our group size began with no size limit, but was voted down to ten, then down to eight,1 including one or two M.S. candidates.  By the time I'm through, I expect we'll have published around 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals (nearly all featuring undergraduate co-authors); we already attracted nearly a million dollars in extramural research support.

    I want to thank every single research student, from the first to the last, without whose hard work and dedication, along with their good humor and intra-group harmony, nothing could have been accomplished. I wish you all the good fortune you deserve as you pursue your own careers, and if you need anything from me in the future, email me at Gmail (see below).  Of course, you're welcome to contact me at home, where I expect to be for some time.

    If you need something from me in the future, like a recommendation letter for a postdoctoral fellowship from NSF or NIH, or a letter in support of any other goal you've set, please don't hesitate to contact me. I should always be available via my email address at Gmail (thblack at gmail dot com) because it is so very superior to others, especially in its ability to filter spam.


f1.This rule became known in the group as the "Black Law of the Conservation of Research Students"; the ostensible hypothesis was that if our group size were artificially shrunk, the extra students would migrate to the groups that habitually had trouble attracting research students.  Kind of like a gain in student entropy. Some faculty actually believe - still! - that undergrads are not mature enough to know what kind of chemistry they want to investigate in the research lab! I remember when I did UG research - I sure knew that organic synthesis turned me on like nothing else!

v cyclopentylβ-lactone dyotropic rearrangementbutenolide
2-substituted fused butenolidediaz symmetrical core to diazonamide A, a new anticancer drugPBF chiral benzofuranone with 4° carbon
newctnew nucleophilic catalyst for chiral transacylation and other reactionsdolbelladienea dolabelladiene, which are bioactive marine natural products