The MJA Lab

synthetic, physical, and biological organic chemistry

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Welcome to The MJA Lab

The MJA Lab is a chemistry research laboratory based at Ryerson University (Canada) and Northern Illinois University (USA). Work in the MJA Lab revolves around organic synthesis, which is the construction of carbon-based compounds. We are broadly interested in the design, synthesis, and application of interesting and functional novel organic molecules. 


Current Research Interests


The study of protein-protein interactions (PPIs) and the synthesis of inhibitors

The MJA Lab is developing (through design, synthesis, and biological application) novel proteomimetic covalent drugs for the inhibition of PPIs, which have been established as an important modern target for drug discovery. Contact between proteins occurs in shallow pockets over relatively large surface areas, and therefore designing high affinity inhibitors is difficult. One way with which to increase effective binding affinity to a crucial surface site is through the use of covalent reaction between substrate and target.

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Hypervalent silanes in organic synthesis

Organosilanes are functional molecules used synthetically as hydride- and carbon-transferring reagents. While a vast array of synthetic methodologies exploiting their utility have been explored, their practical use has been hampered by the fact that reagents are either difficult to handle or require expensive and/or dangerous additives. Recent work in The MJA Lab has demonstrated that hydrosilatrane is a cheap, green, and easy-to-handle reducing agent, nearly a silicon equivalent of sodium borohydride but with even greater versatility. Silatranes are structurally interesting and well-studied compounds that contain a stable pentacoordinate silicon, yet have not been explored for synthetic purposes. Further methods revolving around silatrane and its analogs are currently being explored.

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Hypervalent silanes for organic ELECTRONICS applications

Of great importance to the world in its current state is the need for renewable, sustainable, clean, and cheap sources of energy. Recently, interest in organic dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) has grown due to their efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and safety profile. This work builds upon findings in this fast-advancing field by further exploring an underutilized method by which to derivatize, attach, and enhance the activity of porphyrin dyes in DSSCs: axially. Beyond DSSCs, these molecules are also being explored for use in other organic electronic applications.

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Dynamic covalent molecular switches

Molecular switches are compounds capable of adopting one of two or more conformational states in response to an external stimulus. Such compounds are useful in a variety of realms, from chemical sensing to functional materials. Work from The MJA Lab has shown the utility of the chalcone/flavanone scaffold as a molecular switch bearing the unique properties of covalent dynamism controlled by a chemical stimulus and detectable by UV/Vis spectroscopy. Work now focuses on two distinct areas: 1) to lower the pH at which this switch can be effected and 2) incorporation of this switch into peptide sequences to control secondary structure formation.


To learn more about current work going on in The MJA Lab, please see our recent publications or contact MJA directly.