Catalysis Club of Chicago

Member-North American Catalysis Society

December 6, 2021

Dr. Marion Emmert
Principal Scientist
Merck Research Laboratory

Non-directed C-H bond functionalizations: Synthetic applications and mechanistic studies


Biosynthetic and metabolic pathways frequently include C-H functionalizations that enable direct access to highly complex molecules. Mimicking such transformations in non-biological systems and understanding the underlying mechanisms has been at the forefront of intense research efforts in the synthetic community over the last decades.

In this talk, recent advances in the area of non-directed, intermolecular C-H functionalizations will be presented with a focus on base metal catalyzed and metal-free processes. The interplay between mechanistic and synthetic work will be highlighted and the relevance of these innovative methods for pharmaceutical chemistry will be discussed.


Dr. Marion H. Emmert earned her Diploma (MS) degree from the University of Freiburg (Germany) and her PhD from the University of Munster (Germany). Following postdoctoral work at the University of Michigan with Prof. Melanie Sanford as an NSF Center for Chemical Innovation postdoctoral fellow, she joined the faculty at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2011 as Assistant Professor of Chemistry, with joint appointments in Materials Engineering and Chemical Engineering since 2012. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2017 and joined the Pfizer Chemical Technology (Chemical R&D) group in April 2018 for a sabbatical. Following the experience in industrial process research, she accepted a position at Merck Research Laboratories in August 2018.

Marion received an ACS PRF New Doctoral Investigator Award, has been elected as a 2016 Young Academic Investigator of the ACS Organic Section, and was associated with the NSF Center for Selective C-H Functionalization as a Diversity Faculty Fellow. She has authored >20 independent publications and 2 patents. Her academic research group, consisting of up to 12 direct reports during 2011 to 2018, worked in the development and fundamental understanding of novel processes and reactions. This included inventing new catalysts for C-H functionalizations, practical aerobic oxidations, biomass deconstruction, and designing zero waste recycling processes for rare earth materials. Her independent research was funded by the ACS PRF, NSF, NIH, the Army Research Laboratories, and industrial sponsors. Results have been highlighted by the national and international press, including C&EnNews, BBC Horizons, Gizmodo, and National Geographic Online.

After joining the Merck Process R&D department in 2018, her initial role focused on accelerating the transition of drug candidates from the discovery (medicinal chemistry) to the development (process chemistry) space through inventing and elucidating innovative and novel chemical reactivity. In 2021, she was promoted to Principial Scientist in the Catalysis group, where she is currently leading a team impacting both early and late process development through technology development, high throughput experimentation, and inventing novel reactivity.