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Jessica Kisunzu

Assistant Professor

Biography and Research Interests

Dr. Kisunzu received her B.S. in chemistry at Southern Adventist University in 2005, during which time she became interested in organic chemistry and the puzzle-like nature of organic synthesis, as well as its many applications. She chose to pursue this interest at the University of California at Berkeley, where she completed a Ph.D. while studying the synthesis of a family of natural products called diterpenoid alkaloids. While at Berkeley, she developed an interest in strained alkynes and benzyne chemistry. Upon finishing her Ph.D., Dr. Kisunzu did postdoctoral research on biologically-inspired catalysis and computational chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, Switzerland. She started at Colorado College as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the fall of 2017.

Her current research at CC is related to the formation and application of benzynes and other highly strained and reactive aromatic alkynes. Once formed, these intermediates can participate in a variety of reactions to access different carbon frameworks, which can then be used to synthesize biologically or medically relevant small molecules. Specific research directions include: 1) exploring the reactivity of benzynes with different nucleophiles, 2) developing methods to synthesize and use aromatic alkynes in systems of different ring sizes (5, 6, and 7-membered rings), 3) exploring new methods for generating benzyne intermediates, and 4) using computer modeling methods and programs to analyze the intermediates and their reactivity.

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Selected Publications

Rigling, C.; Kisunzu, J. K.; Duschmalé, J.; Häussinger, D.; Wiesner, M.; Ebert, M.-O.; Wennemers, H. Conformational Properties of a Peptidic Catalyst: Insights from NMR Spectroscopic Studies. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 10829–10838.

Kou, K. G. M.; Pflueger, J. J.; Kiho, T.; Morrill, L. C.; Fisher, E. L.; Clagg, K.; Lebold, T. P.; Kisunzu, J. K.; Sarpong, R. A Benzyne-Insertion Approach to Hetisine-Type Diterpenoid Alkaloids: Synthesis of Cossonidine. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 8105-8109.

Grünenfelder, C. E.; Kisunzu, J. K.; Trapp, N.; Kastl, R.; Wennemers, H. Crystal Structures of Peptidic Catalysts of the H-DPro-Pro-Xaa Type. Pept. Sci. 2017, DOI: 10.1002/bip.22912.

Grünenfelder, C. E.; Kisunzu, J. K.; Wennemers, H. Peptide-Catalyzed Stereoselective Conjugate Addition Reactions of Aldehydes to Maleimide. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2016, 55, 8571-8574.

Hamlin, A. M.; Kisunzu, J. K.; Sarpong, R. Synthetic Strategies Toward Hetidine and Hetisine-Type Diterpenoid Alkaloids. Org. Biomol. Chem. 2014, 12, 1846-1860. (Review)