About Alex Speed (he/him/his)
Assistant Professor, Dalhousie University
|I always wear safety glasses now! Not in 1992.|
I started as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University in July 2015. I was born and raised in Liverpool Nova Scotia, which is a small town approximately 110 km southwest of Halifax. I was educated in the public school system of Liverpool, and I have been broadly interested in the sciences for as long as I can remember. I focused on chemistry when I had to specialize as an undergraduate, earning my BSc at Dalhousie University in 2006. Despite my current interest in main group catalysis and methods development, almost the entirety of my training from undergraduate through to PDF was conducted in total synthesis. I was introduced to research, mechanistic thought, and organic chemistry in summer research with Prof. James A. Pincock in 2003, preparing indenyl acetates for photochemical studies. I conducted an honours project and two summers of research with Prof. D. Jean Burnell, learning synthetic technique by helping a graduate student Craig Stamp scale up intermediates for the synthesis of fredericamycin A, then conducting my own projects, first using a carbohydrate derivative as a chiral controller, and then catching the organometallic bug by investigating the diastereoselectivity of cross-metathesis dimerizations of chiral but racemic substrates.
My undergraduate studies were followed by PhD studies at Harvard University, in Cambridge Massachusetts, which is 550 km southwest of Liverpool NS. After a year in the group of Prof. Tobias Ritter working with low-valent iron complexes, I completed my PhD in the group of Prof. David A. Evans, graduating in 2012. During my time in the Evans group, I completed a synthesis of peloruside A, and synthesized a compound en-route to spiro-prorocentrimine containing all 16 stereocentres, solving a complex stereochemical problem in a Diels-Alder reaction on the way. I had a lot of latitude in applying my interest in organometallic chemistry to this synthesis. Working on spiro-prorocentrimine also introduced me to imines, and homogenous hydrogenation of alkenes employing rhodium and iridium catalysis. As you might be able to tell from the structure of the frontier intermediate, an olefin metathesis to close the 23 membered ring was not successful for conformational reasons that we did not predict at the beginning of the project.
After graduating from Harvard, I made my smallest move yet, travelling 7 km southwest to Boston College where I worked for Prof. Amir Hoveyda to expand my exposure to methods development, catalyst design, and learn about the intricacies of Z selective olefin metathesis. During my time in the Hoveyda group, I was finally able to complete a total synthesis using olefin metathesis. I completed a synthesis of disorazole C1, working with molybdenum-based olefin metathesis catalysts to synthesize an advanced intermediate for a challenging Suzuki dimerization. I also learned how to disassemble, reassemble, and maintain a glovebox, which proved vital in my subsequent career!
After 9 years in the Boston area, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to return to Nova Scotia, and Dalhousie University. Departing from my background in total synthesis and organometallic catalysis, I established a research program in main-group catalysis, and am happy to be able to conduct research and teaching in the Chemistry department with many talented students, colleagues, and collaborators. When I'm not in the lab, you might find me pursuing my passions for history, horticulture, camping, hiking, or enjoying Nova Scotia's excellent seafood offerings. I enjoy sleeping outside in temperatures far below what most people would find palatable.
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