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[09/03/07]  As school has barely gotten underway for the fall semester, I thought this was as good a time as ever to update y'all on what's been happening.  (By the way, I appreciate all the folks who have either called or e-mailed me, saying that they check this page occasionally and always like it when I've added something.  I'll definitely do it more often!)  This is the time of year that I miss being at EIU the most - I always got psyched up at the start of ever new semester, regardless of which classes I'd be teaching.  I loved teaching them all, and of course every semester brought a new researcher or two, especially in the fall, since a few would have graduated the preceding spring.
    We have three publications that have been submitted and are in various stages of the reviewing process.  I'll keep you, especially the co-authors, posted on how things go.
     I spent Jan. thru March on the Big Island of Hawaii last winter; we're going to add December this year to make it four months.  We live in Pahoa, about 30mi south of Hilo, on the east coast.  It's officially part of a rain forest, although it doesn't rain all that much.  The climate is incredible - year-long, the highs are between 80 and 83, and the lows 58-62.  We're two blocks from the ocean, which you can easily hear all night, and we're adjacent to a chain of tide pools, which are protected areas and provide the best snorkeling I've ever seen.  There are many thousands of intensely colorful fish that show no fear of us.
    One last thing for now - my RSD really loves never getting cold!  It hasn't been this good since I can remember.  There are definitely worse things than being on our lake in Champaign until Thanksgiving, and the heading for Hawaii until April Fool's Day.  Please drop me an email when you get a chance, and remember to use  Talk to you later!

- I guess this qualifies as exciting, and a new development, but it gives me no pleasure at all to have to make official my intention to leave EIU, effective immediately.  Due to developments involving both my health and other factors, it has become simply impossible to continue in my current position, with my usual state of enthusiasm, happiness, and joy in interaction with all of you students, if I intend to hang on to my sanity and have any hope for a retirement that is in any way tolerable.

    It is all the more sad, in that we just had the best summer we have had in years, as far as research progress, including cracking the propylxanthine project project that comprised our first project ever, back in 1986.  I want to assure you all that none of these events has any bearing on your behavior, professionalism, productivity, or any other facet of developing as young chemists.  I am extremely proud of you all, and that's one of the things that make this situation so incredibly unfortunate - none of you,or your immediate predecessors, brought this on you in any way whatsoever.  Rest assured that those who asked me received very strong letters of reference, and if you need any in the future, you can count on the same high quality referrals.

[12/16/05]  As most of you have learned by now, I've decided that I must retire, effective immediately.  This decision was based on several factors, a major one of which was my reaction to the temperature drop last week from 30 oC to -3 oC in one day - the resulting vasoconstriction stayed with me for many hours, completly numbing my fingers. My pain physicians have said they're worried that if I try to push my way through several more years, my retirement could be spent in a wheelchair, while if I stop now, I could have a relatively good quality of life.

      I am very sorry for the effect this  must be having on you, and I wish I could do something about it, but I've exhausted my therapeutic options for the foreseeable future. I'll do all I can to help you finish your projects next semester.

My main goal next semester is to finish off all of the small projects that are workig fine, but still must be completed; this usually means running them on several additional substrates.  Once the projects are complete, and assuming we get the expected spectra, we should have no trouble publishing them (this is as close to a promise as I can make).  I've done this once before, and I think every single person in the group got on one or two publications. Sound good?  Don't go anywhere!

[09/30/05] We're having a hard time re-starting our momentum following the post-summer break, for a strange reason. Turns out that my energy still has a way to go, so I'm only teaching Mon., Wed., and Friday. Unfortunately, the current regime has decided that if I'm not in the building, you're not allowed to do research!! This cuts out all research for Tues. and Thursday!!! So, I'll be meeting with everyone individually much more often, because we do not want that dynamite momentum we built up over the summer being destroyed! So - keep the faith, talk to me as much as you want, and perhaps some day we'll learn about this very strange, unique decision.

[08/02/05]  This item certainly qualifies as "Exciting News!"!!  After many weeks of intense work, consulting many journal articles and me, Aaron has made well over a gram of white, analytically pure 1-propylxanthine!! (For background, look down four paragraphs.)  Not only that, but the procedure seems to be reproducible and applicable to the synthesis of virtually any derivative that the in vivo testing suggests would be worth a look. Once the semester is underway and Dr. McGilliard's testing protocol is up and running, we'll probably publish the optimized route, because if there's one thing we learned, there is no one source that spells out exactly how to prepare these compounds, which are notoriously difficult to make.  Congratulations, Aaron!!

[05/09/05] As the result of a few graduations, as well as two students graduating in Dec. 2005 who decided not to do research their last semester, we are in the misdt of the biggest group turnaround in its history - as a result of the spring recruiting drive, we have taken on five new researchers!  Even better - all but one are starting this summer, when the training is finished quickly and real research starts immediately!  We'd like to extend a warm welcome to Steve Clark, Drew Dust, Mark Klepacki, Dan Kuchta, and Troy Link; all but Mark will join us on May 23.  Should be an exciting, productive summer!

We're excited to announce two new features to the group web site, both acknowledging the parade of excellent researchers who have passed through the group since its inception 20 years ago.  Both are linked through the usual link list on the left.  "Group Alumni" is a partial listing of everyone who has been a group member from the start - it's incomplete, as I keep trying to track down everyone; but it's still a large listing!  "Featured Alumni" will highlight an individual alum, and will have a short biography contributed by the alum, along with a photo or two, tracking what's become of him/her since leaving the group.  We plan to feature 3-4 alumni per year.  The first is Dr. Steve Arrivo, the very first group member!  Check it out!

[Jan. 2005]
We start out the new year with three new research students, one of whom replaces Prashanth Padakanti, who is now working on his Ph.D. at Washington University - congratulations, Prashanth!  The three new researchers are Meghan Breen, Larry Keniley, and Eric Tennison - welcome to you all!  Also - You'd think that, after 20 years, not much new could happen to the group, but Meghan is a first, in that she's a freshman!  I knew she was a Presidential Scholar - a very prestigious award - so I figured she had lots of great chemistry in high school.  A brief talk with her confirmed that, so we are fortunate that she chose us.  She plans to enter a M.D.-Ph.D. program upon graduation.

After a 15 year hiatus, we are back on the trail of potential drugs for the treatment of neonatal apnea.  In collaboration with Dr. Kip McGilliard (BIO), we focused on 1-propylxanthine, due to SAR studies indicating its probable selectivity for only pulmonary stimulation (not cardiac).  After a lot of excellent work, we had to give up - a rare event; however, discovering that NIH was also trying to prepare the same compound, but gave up two months prior to our decision, made us feel better.  Since then, two groups have published syntheses of a key uracil intermediate, so Dr. McGilliard is readying his mouse colony for testing as soon as Andy Mounce makes a few hundred mg of very pure material!

  By the way, xanthines are very common pharmacological tools; the figure contains a few names you'll recognize.  Caffeine, of course, is in coffee and lots of soft drinks; theobromine is what makes chocolate a stimulant and toxic to puppy dogs; theophylline is the current drug of choice for neonatal apnea.

Dr. Black's review of E-Notebook has now been published, in ChemNews, the official publication of CambridgeSoft, Inc.  If you don't have a subscription to ChemNews, you can access the article here.

[9/1/04] Dr. Mike and Lisa are the proud parents of Mary Dell Ruane, born Aug. 30 at 2:35PM; she weighed in at 7lb, 4oz, and 21" long!  Everybody is extremely happy and healthy.  Dr. Mike should be back among us next Tuesday, and if he can't wipe a smile off his face, you'll know why!  Here's Mary Dell, then the proud Dad with Mary.  Click either one for a larger print.

Dr. Black's review of E-Notebook is now in press, so watch for it in a forthcoming issue of ChemNews, the official publication of CambridgeSoft, Inc.

[8/25/04] Click the phrase in the "Group Photos" area for a look at our beautiful new white lab floor!  What a difference - not only is it shiny and clean, but it brightens the entire lab like you wouldn't believe!
E-Notebook: The group is in the process of integrating CambridgeSoft's software package E-Notebook into our organizational format.  For a quick overview, click the link called "E-Notebook - Intro." in the left column.  It will revolutionize the way we maintain records of successful reactions (and their associated spectra, tabular data, etc.), chemical samples/intermediates, and everything else involved in investigative organic synthesis. 

Welcome to new researcher Kristy Smith, fresh from a great performance in CHM 2840.  She's planning on medical school after EIU - we'll see about that after a year or two in research! ;-)  She's also a varsity swimmer, so schedule your time with her a month in advance!

Our synthetic procedure for the preparation of trimethylsilylketene has been accepted for checking at Organic Syntheses - stay tuned!

[May 2004] This should be one of the best summers in recent history!  There are six people in the lab, four of them supported full-time.  Dreyfus postdoc Mike Ruane is finally in the lab a lot, after having to take most of Dr. Black's CHM 2840 class last spring, thanks to the RSD monster.  Prashanth is intensely working to graduate by Aug. 1, so he can begin at Washington Univ. on August 7.  Mike G., Nick S., and Andy M. (supported by PRF [MG] and the Dreyfus Foundation [NS, AM]) are hard at work  on their projects, and newcomer Kristy is about to start her own research adventure.

Congratulations to Prashanth Padakanti, who has begun Ph.D. studies at Washington Univ.  He's now engaged in finishing up his thesis describing his attempts to complete his total synthesis of heritol, which, unfortunately, resisted his efforts to bring the synthesis to completion prior to his departure.

Congratulatrions also to Anna Kane, who, at last count, had been accepted at three medical schools, and isn't through yet!

Prof. Black Update: As of March 22, Prof. Black has been back at EIU, but only Mon., Wed., and Friday. The leg wound is as good as closed (i.e., almost), but the issue now is fatigue, no doubt payback for the insanity of last semester, when he averaged a surgery every two weeks, while teaching full time (the surgery total was nine!). But, week by week, the energy is returning, and the best news is that, consistent with his hopes and theory, the RSD pain is perhaps 15-20% of what it was, and continues to fade. If, as he and his physicians believe, the RSD totally resolves, his plastic surgeon wants to publish the case, and eagerly accepted Dr. Black's offer to write the Introduction. That will be something new - publishing in a medical journal for a change!

Surgery Update: Dr. Black's long battle to get the 12" wound in his thigh to close - and stay closed - may be coming to an end!  He is on medical leave from EIU, which is to be from four to six weeks long.  Things have been going well enough recently that he anticipates being able to return after four weeks - which is next Monday (2/9/04)!  Stay tuned.

Over the Christmas break, we FINALLY got a new floor for the lab!  I've been writing yearly memos to Dept. Chairs and Physical Plant managers virtually since I got to EIU (1985), warning them that when an accident happened, we wouldn't be able to say we didn't know a hazard existed.  So, after boxing and moving every single bottle, tank, desk, hood contents, etc. across the hall into the organic teaching lab, and then returning it all a few weeks later, we have a new, beautiful, WHITE floor!!  Some photos will be posted soon.

New Researcher! We are all very happy to welcome Andy Mounce to the group, starting this semester (spring 2004)!  Andy is a sophomore chemistry major, currently taking CHM 2840, who, in his words, will be "around for a long time".  Music to our ears!  Welcome to the group, Andy!!

It's the end of the semester, and, believe it or not, we must say goodbye to Juls (known to the outside world as Julie) Johnston! Juls has been a member of the group since summer 2002, and she didn't miss a semester!  She contributed a great deal to three different projects, involving new approaches to: a. carbonyl methylenation, b. ß-lactam synthesis, and c. reductive amination.  We'll miss you!

Congratulations to Anna Kane, who was awarded a research grant from the Undergraduate Research Council for the Spring 2004 semester!  The grant proposal isn't even two pages long, and is worth $500 to Anna (completely unrestricted) and $250 to the group.

Prof. Black has just survived his fourth surgery in five weeks, so is doubly happy to have Mike Ruane around to help out during the inevitable days when he can't be at Eastern.  To avoid devoting loads of space here, sometime soon Dr. Black will publish a separate piece linked here, which will briefly explain what's going on, the prognosis, etc.  Stay tuned.

Dr. Michael Ruane, the new Dreyfus Fellow, began with us in August.  His lab desk is the usual one by the doors, and his office is where Dr. Deakyne's lab was (ph. 581-7474).  He went through the three-step intro sequence quickly, and is now learning the ropes of the lab, helping the people in there, and beginning work on his own projects, which, for now, will focus on working with Isaac on the development of our new chiral, BINAP-based DMAP analog.

In addition to returning (from last spring) veterans Julie Johnston and Anna Kane, we also welcome Nick Selner to the group; he is a chemistry major who plans to enter graduate school in  pharmacy upon graduation in May 2005.

Of the group's graduates from last spring, Mike Yurkovich is beginning Ph.D. studies at Purdue, Jagadish Boppisetti (JB) is at Washington Univ., and Andrea Mitchell has begin working with Lilly Pharmaceuticals in Indianapolis (probably to keep Bob Graham company ).

Adam (Xiguang) Zhao finally received a visa (see two items down), and is now back at the Univ. of Utah to continue work toward his Ph.D.  Unfortunately, he'll miss the current semester completely, but, all in all, there was little damage done.  If you'd like to write and welcome him back to the States, I'm sure he'd love it.

I just found out that Adam has not shared with other group members that a wonderful, amazing thing happened to him when he was back in China; I know he doesn't mind my sharing it.  Here's the direct quote: "I got married during the time I were waiting for my visa. Her name is Shuang Xiang (pronounced as: s-u-ang sh-ee-ang)."  Can you all believe it?  If you'd like to write to Adam to congratulate or provide other feedback to him, here's a great chance to write.

Congratulations to Mike Yurkovich and Jagadish Boppisetti, who have been accepted for Ph.D. studies at Purdue (Mike and JB) and Washington U. (JB)!

Adam (Xiguang) Zhao
, who began Ph.D. studies at Utah last fall, is stuck in China, which has not issued him a visa to return to the U.S. after his return there for Christmas.  The Chemistry Department at Utah, including his chosen research director, Prof. Gary Keck, is being very understanding, although he'll miss the current semester.

For the first time ever, we have a 50% researcher turnover as of Jan. 2003!  We welcome a new graduate student and three undergraduates to our team:
Prashanth Padakanti, holding a master's degree from India, is our new grad. student, who plans to earn his Ph.D. upon graduation.  Our new undergrads are Mike Giammanco, Anna Kane, and Nick Love.  Mike is planning on pharmacy school, while Anna and Nick are both medical school-bound.  (Unless, of course, the Black Research Group MagicTM takes over, and they decide that chemical research is just too cool to leave....)

We must say good-bye to three graduating seniors this month (Dec. 2002) - Vince Chebney, who will be starting graduate studies at Marquette University (Chem. Dept.) in Milwaukee, WI; William (Bob) Graham, who's job hutning; and Mike Yurkovich, who's applying to graduate schools for FA03, and looking forward to spending another semester with us (supported by a grant) doing nothing but research!

Dr. Black has just learned that his proposal to the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation for a second Scholar/Fellow award has been funded!!  The $100,000+ grant will again fund, among other things, a postdoctoral associate for two years, beginning next fall.
The postdoc will be someone who wishes a career like Dr. Black's - teaching in an excellent chemistry department which strongly emphasizes research as the very best kind of teaching - and will both teach some courses that would have been assigned to THB, and spend loads of time in the research lab, doing lots of chemistry him/herself, in addition to helping out the students in the group.
If we can find someone as good as Prof. Doug Smith - the first Dreyfus postdoc who was with the group from 1993-5 - the next two years are going to be fantastic!

Vince Chebny has just been accepted at Marquette University, and will begin graduate work next January!  Congratulations, Vince!

Adam Zhao has just started his Ph.D. graduate work at the University of Utah (Chem. Dept.), and is hard at work finishing the final editing of his M.S. thesis, so he can defend it very soon.

Jody Craft and Greg Seelhoefer have both started medical school at SIU in the fall.  We already miss them both very much, but since they're both locals, they'll have no reason not to keep in touch!  If you want to write and see how they're doing - and remind them that we like to hear from group alums - click on each name!

Congrats to Mike Y., who was awarded a URC grant for this coming summer - $1500 for him, and $500 for the group.  Mike also walked away with three Departmental awards at the annual Spring banquet (also worth some $$)!

On April 5-6, the annual Illinois Student Research Symposium was hosted  by Governor's State U., and of course the Black group was well represented. Mike made a podium presentation of our andirolactone synthesis (A Versatile Synthesis of Andirolactone, a Medicinally Important Natural Product, and Easily Functionalized Derivatives, Michael J. Yurkovich, Michael C. Zotz, T. Howard Black*), and Adam's poster illustrated his excellent progress on our project concerning the regioselective C-acylation of extended enolate systems ("Carbon Acylation Of Highly Delocalized Enolates Using Catalytic Dimethylaminopyridine (DMAP) on 3-Aryl Benzofuranone Derivatives”, Xiguang Zhao, and T. Howard Black*).  Jagadish, Bob, and Vince came along to the conference, as well.

The great majority of our group - Adam, Andrea, Greg, Jagadish, Jody, and Mike - made a trip to the State Capitol in Springfield on Wednesday, March 20, to make a series of poster presentations (five posters!) on our research to state legislators.  State Representative Dale Righter spent a considerable amount of time
with several of our posters.  For many nice photos, click here!

Kudos to Mike Yurkovich on being awarded a SURE (Scholars in Undergraduate Research at Eastern) award!  His poster on his research, along with the SURE award, was presented on Friday, March 1, 2002, in the University Ballroom.