Melanie Sanford

2017 National Award Winner — Faculty

Melanie Sanford

Current Position:
Moses Gomberg Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry; Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry

University of Michigan

Organic and Inorganic Chemistry

Recognized for: Innovations in catalytic C-H functionalization and development of novel synthetic methodology that provide chemists the ability to access molecules of varying complexity. These molecules find applications in multiple arenas including the agrochemical, pharmaceutical and medical imaging industries.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: C-H Functionalization, Transition Metal Catalysis; Fluorination Chemistry and Radiofluorination; Organometallics, New Materials for Non-aqueous Flow Batteries


Ph.D., Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
B.S., M.S., Chemistry, Yale University

Prof. Sanford’s research spans the fields of organic and inorganic chemistry. She is an international leader in the development and study of transition metal catalyzed reactions that are widely applied in the chemistry industry for the efficient construction of new pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals. Prof. Sanford has also pioneered a tandem catalysis approach for carbon dioxide capture and conversion, and has made important discoveries in the design of energy storage materials for applications in redox flow batteries. Furthermore, she has developed new carbon-fluorine bond forming reactions for accessing important brain and heart imaging agents. Throughout her work, Prof. Sanford uses rigorous mechanistic analysis to develop novel transformations and catalysts.

Quote:My research focuses on the design, development, and study of new chemical reactions, aiming to reduce complexity and decrease the environmental impact of making functional molecules. We then use these molecules for applications including the treatment of disease, biomedical imaging, battery materials, and carbon dioxide recycling.

Key Publications:

  1. Sevov, C. S.; Hickey, D. P.; Cook, M. E.; Robinson, S. G.; Barnett, S.; Minteer, S. D.; Sigman, M. S.; Sanford, M. S. “APhysicalOrganicApproachtoPersistent, Cyclable, Low-PotentialElectrolytesforFlowBatteryApplications,” J. Am. Chem. Soc.2017, 139, 2924-2927.
  2. Topczewski, J. J.; Cabrera, P. J.; Saper, N. I.; Sanford, M. S. “Palladium-Catalysed Transannular C–H Functionalisation of Alicyclic Amines,” Nature2016, 531, 220-224.
  3. Rezayee, N. M.; Huff, C. A.; Sanford, M. S. “Tandem Amine and Ru Catalyzed Hydrogenation of CO2 to Methanol,” J. Am. Chem. Soc.2015, 137, 1028-1031.
    Hickman, A. J.; Sanford, M. S. “High Valent Copper and Palladium in Catalysis,” Nature 2012, 484, 177-185.
  4. Lyons, T. W.; Sanford, M. S. “Palladium-Catalyzed Ligand-Directed C–H Functionalization Reactions,” Chem. Rev. 2010, 110, 1147-1169.

Other Honors:

2016      Elected Fellow, American Chemical Society
2016      Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences
2016      Elected Fellow, American Academy o Arts and Sciences
2015      OMCOS Award
2013      Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Chemistry
2011       MacArthur Foundation Fellowship
2011       Fellow of American Association for Advancement of Science
2011       ACS Award in Pure Chemitsry
2010      National Fresenius Award
2008     ACS Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award
2006     Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
2006     National Science Foundation CAREER Award
2004     Beckman Young Investigator Award
2003     Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty Award

In the Media:

In situ with Melanie Sanford, Chemistry World, May 26, 2017
Sanford Honored with Election to National Academy of Sciences, LSA Chemistry, University of Michigan, May 4, 2016
Melanie Sanford - Better Ways to Make Molecules, Youtube, May 5, 2017
Melanie Sanford: The Interview, Science Magazine, November 24, 2006

The Sanford Group