Niankai Fu

2018 Regional Award Finalist — Post-Doc

Niankai Fu

Current Position:
Postdoctoral Research Associate

Cornell University

Organic and Inorganic Chemistry

Recognized for: transformative work on the development of electroorganic synthesis as a viable synthetic chemistry tool.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Electroorganic Synthesis, Asymmetric Catalysis, Organic Chemistry, Free Radical


PhD, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
BS, Hubei University, China

Dr. Fu is an organic chemist who is pioneering the use of electroorganic synthesis - the synthesis of organic molecules in an electrochemical cell - to develop new reaction methodology and provide new synthetic routes to bioactive natural products & other value-added products.

Fundamentally speaking, a chemical reaction is an orchestrated movement of electrons from a higher potential to a lower potential. Synthetic chemistry in its most basic sense seeks to take advantage of reactions that are energetically favorable, however not all useful chemical transformations are energetically favored. Electroorganic synthesis provides a viable means of promoting (making them energetically favorable) chemical transformations and has the added benefit of avoiding or minimizing the use of costly and toxic compounds, which produce toxic byproducts.

His work focuses on the combined use of electrosynthesis and molecular catalysis to develop new methods for selectively and efficiently converting alkenes into value added products such as diamines and organochlorides, which find applications in research and development for medicinal chemistry and in the synthesis of novel materials.

"Electroorganic synthesis offers many benefits over traditional reagent-based transformations and is an emerging field in modern organic chemistry. I aim to spend my career innovating in electroorganic synthesis and hope to inspire more research efforts in this area so that this technique could be employed more often in the synthetic community."

Key Publications:

  1. Fu, N.; Sauer, G. S.; Lin, S. “A general, electrocatalytic approach to the synthesis of vicinal diamines” Nat. Protoc. 2018. 13, 1725.

  2. Ye, K.-Y.; Pombar, G.; Fu, N.; Sauer, G. S.; Keresztes, I.; Lin, S. “Anodically Coupled Electrolysis for the Heterodifunctionalization of Alkenes J. Am. Chem. Soc.2018, 140, 2438.

  3. Fu, N.; Sauer, G. S.; Saha, A.; Loo, A.; Lin, S. “Metal-catalyzed Electrochemical Diazidation of AlkenesScience. 2017, 357, 575

  4. Fu, N.; Sauer, G. S.; Lin, S. “Electrocatalytic Radical Dichlorination of Alkenes with Nucleophilic Chlorine SourcesJ. Am. Chem. Soc.2017, 139, 15548

Other Honors:

2013 National Scholarship for Graduate Students, China
2012 Reaxys PhD Prize Finalists
2012 Pacemaker to Merit Student, Chinese Academy of Sciences
2012 “Zhu Li Yuehua” Outstanding Doctoral Student Award, Chinese Academy of Sciences

In the Media:

Cornell News - Chemists use electricity to amp up drug manufacturing