Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Member

Daniel C Whitehead, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dev Arya

Committee Member

Leah Casabianca

Committee Member

Modi Wetzler


Within the field of asymmetric catalysis, many researchers have been inspired by the multifaceted structures and corresponding catalytic activity and selectivity of enzymes. One approach to mimicking the important characteristics of enzymes is to develop peptide-based catalysts for asymmetric transformations. Peptides containing even a small number of amino acids are able to provide an environment, rich with chiral information, that is adequate for the transfer of chirality. The overall goal of the presented research is to combine peptide-mediated asymmetric catalysis with hypervalent iodine (HI) chemistry in order to develop new and highly modular peptide catalysts for a variety of HI-mediated enantioselective transformations. HI compounds are recognized as valuable and attractive reagents due to their mild reactivity, high selectivity, and commercial availability as oxidants and electrophiles, while also reducing the overall negative environmental impact of these transformations. In particular, the emergence of catalytic and enantioselective processes with iodine(III) species is starting to make these compounds competitive with metal catalysts. Thus, one could imagine that the incorporation of an iodine(III) active site, such as an iodoarene moiety, into a peptide scaffold would result in asymmetric catalysts well suited for organic transformations such as the α-oxytosylation of propiophenone and oxylactonization of 5-oxo-5- phenylvaleric acid. While, these two reactions represent broadly studied catalytic iodine(III)-mediated transformations, they have yet to reach synthetically useful levels of enantioselectivty.

The second part of this dissertation pivots to focus on the implementation of functional materials for environmental remediation techniques, such as, the capture of volatile organic compounds and pesticide degradation. Polyethylenimine (PEI) functionalized kaolinite clay was successfully prepared, characterized, and assessed for the remediation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A gas chromatographic vapor capture assay evaluated the capability of unmodified and modified clay material to capture representative aldehyde, carboxylic acid, and sulfur VOCs in a laboratory setting. Unmodified kaolinite clay was moderately effective at remediating these VOCs, while the amine functionalized kaolinite was exceptionally successful at selectively capturing organics in the vapor phase. Further, a series of amine-functionalized cellulose nanocrystal materials were successfully synthesized, characterized, and evaluated for the remediation of pesticide contaminants from organic and aqueous media. Their ability to degrade malathion in organic systems has been examined, resulting in up to 100% degradation of malathion into detectable lower molecular weight by-products. A poly(ethyleneimine)-grafted cellulose nanocrystal material was also effective at degrading malathion, deltamethrin, and permethrin in aqueous systems with 100%, 95%, and 50% reduction, respectively. Thus, these materials can potentially serve as a new and viable remediation technique based on their ability to effectively degrade various pesticides. The reusability of the amine-modified cellulose nanomaterial was also explored.



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