I’m a lecturer at Rice University, Houston, TX, USA working on natural product total synthesis and related method development, physical (organic) chemistry (both experimental and computational) and chemistry education in collaboration with the Kürti group. During my time off work I enjoy visual arts (both art history and painting/drawing), tinkering with electronics, programming and sports. I’m also interested in foreign languages.
I was born and raised in the lush deciduous woodlands of the South Karelian village of Parikkala, Finland. This is also where my interest in science sparked, leading to a youth surrounded with test-tubes and transistors in a DIY home laboratory. During my teenage years I got drawn to synthetic chemistry with its varied experimental techniques and logical nature. With my extensive home chemistry background I secured a research assistant position at the age of 15 at the nearby Lappeenranta University of Technology where I worked and trained my chemistry skills throughout my teenage years. This path took me to the International Chemistry Olympics in 2009, after which I started my studies at University of Jyväskylä under the guidance of Finland’s pre-eminent synthetic organic chemist, prof. Petri Pihko.
During my undergraduate studies, I single-handedly designed and completed the first enantioselective total synthesis of (+)-Greek tobacco lactone and was then accepted to a PhD program. In October 2018, I completed my Ph.D. in organic chemistry in the Pihko group (University of Jyväskylä, Finland) on the organocatalytic total syntheses of azabicyclo[5.3.0]decane alkaloids. My PhD studies were complemented by a wonderful 4-month stay in the Somfai group (Lund University, Sweden) making headway in Cephalotaxus alkaloid chemistry. During my graduate studies, I also strove to understand and classify the various learning difficulties students have with general organic chemistry. Having finishing my studies in Scandinavia, I received the prestigious 2019 Wiess postdoctoral fellowship from William Marsh Rice University and started working in the Kürti group.
In 2020 I joined the Rice University chemistry faculty as a lecturer. My research is further supported by the Oskar Huttunen foundation.
Academic genealogy: Gustav Nyman – Mauri Lounasmaa – Ari Koskinen – Petri Pihko – Me.
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