Department of Chemistry

Benjamin McDonald

Assistant Professor
Geo Chem 453
Research Interests Synthesis/Catalysis, Polymer chemistry, Self-assembly, Emulsion/Colloid science, Material science


Research Statement 

In interactions with light and matter, nature’s materials display a stunning and diverse array of properties, such as structural color, superhydrophobicity, catalysis, mechanical strength, and flexibility. Common to each of these phenomena, is the intricate, bottom-up hierarchical organization of molecular building blocks. This multiscale organization is characterized by chemical and spatial tailoring spanning the angstrom to macroscopic length scales.

Inspired by this paradigm, research in the McDonald group seeks to develop chemical methods for the “bottom-up” preparation of synthetic organic materials from polymer systems with programable structure, assembly, and reactivity. Fundamental organic chemistry will inform our work at the intersection of polymer chemistry, catalysis, and material science. This interdisciplinary approach is inherently collaborative and is driven by the diverse perspectives of our team of chemists, engineers, and materials scientists. Students working in our lab will receive diverse training and exposure to small and macromolecule organic synthesis, emulsion/colloid science, and polymer assembly, along with accompanying state-of-the-art analytical techniques.


  • 2018 - Ph.D., Organic Chemistry: Northwestern University 
  • 2012 - B.S., Chemistry: University of North Carolina Asheville


Ku, K-H;‡ McDonald, B.R.;‡ Vijayamohanan, H; Zentner, C.A.; Swager, T.M.“Dynamic Coloration of Complex Emulsions by Localization of Gold Rings Near the Triphase Junction”, Small202117, 2007507.

‡ Denotes Equal Contribution

Li, Y.; Chen, C.; Buchsbaum, S.F.; Meshot, E.R.; Herbert, M.; Zhu, R.; Kulikov, O.; McDonald, B.R.; Bui, N.; Jue, M.; Park, S-J.; Valdez, C.; Hok, S.; Wu, K-J.; Swager, T.M.; Fornasiero, F. “Autonomous Responsive Membranes for Chemical Warfare Protection” Adv. Funct. Mater., 2020, 2000258. (DOI:10.1002/adfm.202000258)

Bayly, A.A.; McDonald, B.R.; Mrksich, M.; and Scheidt, K. A “Developing New NHC Reactivity Rapidly via a Novel High-Throughput Analysis Platform” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sc. U.S.A, 2020117, 13261(DOI:10.1073/pnas.2003347117)

Betori, R.; McDonald, B.R.; Scheidt, K. A “Reductive Annulations of Arylidene Malonates with Unsaturated Electrophiles Using Photoredox/Lewis Acid Cooperative Catalysis” Chem. Sci., 2019, 10, 3353-3359. (DOI:10.1039/C9SC00302A)

McDonald, B.R.; Scheidt, K.A “Intermolecular Reductive Couplings of Arylidene Malonates via Lewis Acid/Photoredox Cooperative Catalysis” Org. Lett.201820, 6877–6881. (DOI:10.1021/acs.orglett.8b02893)

McDonald, B.R.; Nibbs, A.E.; Scheidt, K.A. “A Biomimetic Strategy to Access the Silybins: Total Synthesis of (—)-Isosilybin A,” Org. Lett201517, 98-101. Editor’s Choice Open Access (DOI:10.1021/ol503303w)