Department of Chemistry
University of California, Davis
Professor, UC Davis, 2011-present
Associate Professor, UC Davis, 2008-2011
Assistant Professor, UC Davis, 2003-2008
AB, Chemistry, Harvard University, 1991-1995
Born (1973) and raised in Quincy, Massachusetts, USA
Our research is driven by intriguing mechanistic questions and spans many areas of organic chemistry. These include enzyme catalyzed reactions, reactive intermediate promoted polycyclization (RIPP) reactions, catalyst design, physical organometallic chemistry, carbocation structures and rearrangements, pericyclic reactions, regio- and stereoselectivity of synthetically useful reactions, aromaticity, and computer-aided design of enzyme inhibitors and nucleobase analogs.
Our group is particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms of various cascade polycyclization reactions used by Nature and by chemists to synthesize complex natural products such as those shown below.
We are also exploring the concept of "transition state complexation" as an approach towards designing new catalysts for otherwise unfavorable organic reactions, such as formally "forbidden" pericyclic reactions.
Our primary tool for tackling these mechanistic problems is quantum chemistry. We apply various methods - e.g., density functional theory (DFT) - to compute structures, relative energies, activation barriers, NMR and IR spectra, isotope effects, and solvation effects. One of our favorite approaches involves using "theozymes" - theoretical enzymes - to design biological and non-biological catalysts. We also make use of ab initio direct dynamics trajectory calculations to explore nonstatistical dynamic effects on reactivity.
Using these methods, we like to make structural and reactivity predictions. Then we like to see if these predictions are born out in the laboratory.
Dean has taught both graduate and undergraduate chemistry classes for both chemistry and non-chemistry audiences. These classes have ranged in size from less than ten to over three hundred students. For more details, follow the links below.