Scott Snyder receives ’23–’24 Marian and Stuart Rice Research Award

February 23, 2024

Scott Snyder

Professor Scott A. Snyder has received the ’23–’24 Marian and Stuart Rice Research Award, a Divisional honor that provides $100,000 for intellectually exciting and innovative research ventures that enable new research directions.

Snyder was recruited to the University of Chicago in 2015 as a full professor in the Department of Chemistry and the College after previous faculty appointments at both Columbia University and The Scripps Research Institute. An organic chemist whose research is focused on the laboratory preparation of complex molecules isolated from varied biological sources, Snyder has developed an array of tools, reagents, and strategies to better synthesize these complex, and often bioactive, compounds.

“I am so honored and delighted to have received this recognition from the PSD,” said Snyder, who has also served as Associate Chair of the Department of Chemistry and is currently the Deputy Dean for Professional Programs in the Physical Sciences Division. “Stuart Rice is an eminent, deeply respected chemist and former leader on campus, and this support, which is the result of generous gifts from his family, will enable my team to pursue several new and exciting research directions. I hope that a significant return on this investment, both through impactful research findings and additional external funding, will accrue in the months and years to come.”

Over the course of nearly two decades, Snyder and his team have sought to identify new and better ways to efficiently synthesize some of the most complex molecules found in nature starting from much simpler and relatively cheap starting materials. In some cases, that has required the development of new reagents, such as a very potent compound that can install bromine atoms selectively onto advanced frameworks, while in others it has required new reactions and strategic thinking to effectively create all the varied rings and bonds that nature can smoothly forge with enzymes. In this discovery process, they have prepared over one hundred molecules to date, including complex polyphenols found in wine and mushrooms, bioactive alkaloids from varied plants, and an array of complex terpenes that derive from bacteria and fungi

“With this funding we will seek to further explore the biological properties of these materials with colleagues for an array of applications, including cancer research, as well as initiate several potential new collaborations on campus itself,” said Snyder. 

Given that over half of the top 20 pharmaceuticals on the market are either molecules from nature, or compounds that are derived from such materials, such endeavors are of critical importance. “Time will tell if these efforts will bear clinical fruit, but given the unique and rare nature of many of the materials already in hand, the potential for some unique biochemical findings is relatively high.”  

For example, a few years ago, a unique, rare, and complex polyphenol that the Snyder group had prepared in large quantity was shown through collaborative study to safely enhance lentiviral vector gene delivery to hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells; only because of their ability to prepare this molecule efficiently on scale was such a discovery made. 

In addition to his research, Snyder is also deeply dedicated to chemical education. He is co-author of seven books, including monographs for graduate students and professionals; three editions of a leading undergraduate textbook, which is used here on campus; and a primer designed for starting faculty on how to best develop new courses and teach for the first time. Snyder has recently been honored with the 2022 STAR Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, a Swiss Chemical Society Lectureship, and the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. 

The Marian and Stuart Rice Research Award was established by the family of Stuart Alan Rice, the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Chemistry, former chair of the Department of Chemistry, and dean of the Physical Sciences (1981–1995). It is awarded annually to promote new directions of research in the physical and mathematical sciences at the University of Chicago.

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