Jeffrey A. Turk. Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Chemistry

Organic, Medicinal and

Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry

The primary thrust of research conducted in the Turk group is centered around one key question: Can we create molecules that have the appropriate structure to exhibit the function we want?

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The primary thrust of research conducted in the Turk group is centered around one key question: Can we create molecules that have the appropriate structure to exhibit the function we want?

This question is being explored through two projects involving the design, synthesis and evaluation of: (1) novel enzyme inhibitors, and (2) molecules that exhibit targeted fragrance profiles.


Enzyme Inhibitors

Enzymes are frequently chosen as targets for small molecule drugs because their essential catalytic roles in physiological processes are often altered as a consequence of disease. Many pharmaceutical companies and academic laboratories have focused their attention on the creation of new medicines via synthetic enzyme inhibitors. Our interest lies in the rational structure-based design, synthesis, and evaluation of novel enzyme inhibitors. This research gives the undergraduate student exposure to molecular modeling techniques (including protein/enzyme crystal structure visualization) and a combination of traditional and microwave-assisted chemical syntheses. Our close collaboration with the Department of Biochemistry gives us the ability to evaluate the binding effectiveness and mechanisms of our synthetic targets.

Fragrance Ingredients

As small-molecule drugs interact with their target enzymes, molecules that exhibit interesting odor properties interact with olfactory receptors (OR). One important difference between these two examples is that for many enzyme-substrate interactions, the structure, shape, electronics and selectivity of the interactions are known, however fragrance-OR interactions are much less understood. We primarily use a ligand-based design approach, trying to mimic the three-dimensional pharmacophores of known odorants; and as with the earlier project, molecular modeling will be used to aid this effort. We also pay special attention to the synthetic needs of the global Flavors and Fragrances industry by using highly atom-efficient chemical reactions.

Both of these projects integrate Microwave Assisted Organic Synthesis (MAOS) to exploit its potential to help create molecular framework currently available only through conventional synthetic techniques.  The department of chemistry acquired a Biotage Initiator 8 microwave synthesizer in the summer of 2008.