Kyriacos C. Nicolaou, PhD

  • Recruited to: Rice University
  • Recruited from: The Scripps Research Institute and University of California, San Diego
  • Award: Established Investigator

Dr. K. C. Nicolaou is the Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of Chemistry at Rice University. In 1964, Dr. Nicolaou emigrated from Cyprus to England, where his advanced studies in chemistry were carried out at the University of London (B.Sc., 1969, Bedford College, First Class Honors; Ph.D. 1972, University College, with Professors F. Sondheimer and P. J. Garratt).  In 1972, he crossed the Atlantic to the United States and completed postdoctoral appointments at Columbia University (1972–1973, with Professor T. J. Katz) and Harvard University (1973–1976, with Professor E. J. Corey) after which he joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, where he rose through the ranks to become the Rhodes-Thompson Professor of Chemistry.  In 1989, he accepted joint appointments at the University of California, San Diego, where he became Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and The Scripps Research Institute, where he served as the Chairman of the Department of Chemistry and held the Darlene Shiley Chair in Chemistry (1989–2012) and the Aline W. and L. S. Skaggs Professor in Chemical Biology (1996–2013) in the Department of Chemistry.

Dr. Nicolaou is a world renowned synthetic organic chemist whose primary interests include the discovery and development of new synthetic strategies and technologies and the chemical synthesis and biological evaluation of natural and designed molecules of medicinal importance. He is currently investigating the synthesis of highly potent cytotoxic compounds as potential anticancer drugs or payloads for antibody drug conjugates (adc’s) for use as targeting anticancer agents, as well as other scare naturally occurring and designed molecules as potential new therapies for cancer patients. His work often involves collaborative and transdisciplinary efforts in the areas of chemistry, biology and medicine, including projects directed toward the design and synthesis of selective agents against cancer stem cells. The Nicolaou laboratory is also engaged in research directed toward the synthesis of anti-infective agents, marine neurotoxins, and other molecules for use in biological and biomedical research.

For his scientific work, Professor Nicolaou has received numerous awards and honors, including the Linus Pauling Medal (Oregon, Portland, Puget Sound Sections-American Chemical Society; 1996), Tetrahedron Prize for Creativity in Organic Chemistry (2002), the Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry (American Chemical Society; 2003), the Aristeio Bodossaki Prize (Greece, 2004), the A.C. Cope Award, American Chemical Society (2005), the August-Wilhelm-von-Hofmann-Denkmünze Award (Germany, 2008), the Chandler Medal, Columbia University (2008), and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry (2011).

Dr. Nicolaou is a Member of the New York Academy of Sciences (1987), Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1993), Member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA, 1996), of Sciences (2007), Honorary Member of the Israel Chemical Society (2009), Member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (2009), Honorary Life Fellow of the Singapore National Institute of Chemistry (2011), Member of the American Philosophical Society (2011), Member, The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (2013),and Foreign Member of the Royal Society (2013), and holds 10 honorary degrees from universities around the world.

He is the author or co-author of over 750 scientific articles, reviews, and book chapters, 66 patents, and 5 books, including the popular Classics in Total Synthesis co-authored with his student Erik J. Sorensen (1996, VCH), Classics in Total Synthesis II co-authored with his student Scott A. Snyder (2003, Wiley-VCH), Classics in Total Synthesis III co-authored with his student Jason S. Chen (2011, Wiley-VCH), and Molecules That Changed the World, co-authored with his research associate Tamsyn Montagnon (2008, Wiley-VCH). His dedication to chemical education is evidenced by his training of hundreds of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.