The Group

The PI: Nicholas Leadbeater

Dr. L.  was born in Birmingham, England which was the center of the Industrial Revolution. He was an undergraduate at the nearby University of Nottingham where he obtained a first-class honors degree in Chemistry. It was during this time he first became interested in alternative methods for making molecules. He did his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge Chemistry Department under the supervision of Professor Lord Lewis of Newnham and Dr. (now Professor) Paul Raithby. His work was focused around the use of photochemistry as a tool for the preparation of new organometallic complexes. He stayed at Cambridge as a University Research Fellow at Girton College. During this time he started working in the area of polymer-supported catalysis. In 1999 he moved to King's College London to take up a lectureship and a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. While there he initiated his program of research using microwave heating in synthetic chemistry. In 2003 he was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry's Harrison Medal. He moved over the Atlantic in 2004 to his current position at the University of Connecticut. Dr L. obtained tenure in 2010, becoming an Associate Professor, and that same year he was awarded the University of Connecticut Excellence in Teaching award for the Physical Sciences. In 2011, he was awarded a Faculty Development Abroad grant that allowed him to travel to a number of centers of excellence in green chemistry around the world, as well as clock up the air-miles (not so green). Dr L. is the Interim Director of the Chemical Innovations Institute, established by the Connecticut legislature in June 2010. The Institute’s mission is to (1) foster green job growth and safer workplaces through encouraging clean technology innovation and use of green chemistry and (2) provide assistance to those that want to use alternatives to chemicals that are harmful to public health and the environment. Wearing his "communicating science to the general public" hat, Dr L has contributed a number of "Academic Minutes" on a local National Public Radio station, talking about topics as diverse as green chemistry, chirality, biofuels, why the sky is blue, and most recently a three-part series on the chemistry in the hit TV show “Breaking Bad”. He also was a speaker at the Inaugural TED Talks UCONN event in the Fall of 2013, talking about 21st Century Alchemy When not doing chemistry, Dr. L. enjoys cooking (perhaps that's why he likes microwaves), wine, Starbucks coffee, travelling, driving around in his yellow VW Beetle, modern civil aviation, and receiving mention in Chemical & Engineering News.

Current Group: Graduate Students


Gillian Lazarus (Fall 2014-) graduated from Cheshire High School, CT in 2006. In 2010 she received her bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and forensic science from University of New Haven, where she worked with Dr. Eddie Luzik, Jr. on projects ranging from biodiesel production from algae to reactions utilizing green solvents. She then worked at ATMI in the eVolv research group doing a combination of R&D and analytical chemistry. In her limited free time she enjoys horseback riding, photography, playing the oboe, and playing with her ferrets.


J. Loman (Fall 2014-), a native of San Jose CA, received a Bachelor of Science in Marine and Environmental Science from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 2010, along with a commission in the Coast Guard. His first assignment upon leaving the Academy was as a Deck Watch Officer aboard a Juniper-class buoy tender, where he learned to drive the ship while tending buoys and breaking ice. He was then selected to serve as the Executive Officer of an Island-Class Patrol Boat, performing law enforcement and search and rescue operations from the border of Canada down to California. Through the Coast Guard he has traveled from Alaska to Greenland and many places in between. He is now working towards earning a Masters in Chemistry from UCONN. Along with the synthetic chemistry research projects he is currently a part of, he is also interested in undergraduate education and is pursuing a Graduate Certificate in College Instruction. In his spare time he enjoys fishing, camping, and brewing.


Shelli Miller (Fall 2014-)  graduated from Central Cambria High School, PA in 2009, and then in 2013 from Cedar Crest College with her bachelor's degree in chemistry with a concentration in forensic science and a minor in math. Under the tutelage of Dr. Thomas Brettell, Shelli's undergraduate research involved developing colorimetric methods for qualitative identification of cathinone and cathinone derivatives, involved in the production of the illicit drug bath salts. She spent a year working for Silliker, a food quality assurance company, before moving to the University of Connecticut to start her graduate studies. She is currently working on the development of a new synthetic methodology for the preparation of amides. In her free time, Shelli likes to play video games, watch anime, and of course, spend time with her dog, Luna.

Current Group: Undergraduate Students

John Ovian (Spring 2014-) graduated from Daniel Hand High School in Madison, Connecticut in 2013 and is pursuing an honors B.S. in chemistry with a minor in mathematics at UConn. He met Dr. Leadbeater during the honors organic chemistry course and was encouraged to join the group. He was awarded the Holster Scholar First-Year Project, a prestigious grant for honors freshmen, which allowed him to perform an independent research project during the summer of 2014. His research focuses on synthetic methodology development using oxoammonium salts, including allyl ether cleavage, and oxidative nitrile formation from aldehydes. He has also investigated the mechanistic pathway for oxoammonium salt oxidations. During the summer of 2015, John will be performing research in the group of Professor Neil Garg at the University of California, Los Angeles as a part of the Amgen Scholars Program. When not working in the lab, John enjoys singing as director of UConn's coed a cappella group Extreme Measures, running, and snowboarding.



Vincent Pistritto (Spring 2015-) graduated from Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, CT in 2014 as valedictorian of his class. He is currently pursuing his B.S. in Chemistry as well as a B.A. in general music at UConn as a member of the Honors Program. He hopes to one day pursue a career in chemical research. In his free time, he is an avid runner and clarinet player, in addition to serving as a student coordinator for the Honors Initiative for Prospective Students.

Current Group: Visiting Scholars

Emma Carnaghan (2014-2015) joined the group as the first visiting student from the University of Edinburgh. Her time at UConn aims to give her experience in conducting independent research and develop her skills in the lab. While being involved in a number of projects, her current work focuses on the synthesis of oxoammonium salts and their transformations. Outside of the lab, Emma enjoys gallivanting around the U.S, discovering new music and affectionately discussing Edinburgh with anyone that will listen. She is currently pursuing her MChem in Medicinal and Biological Chemistry and, upon returning to Edinburgh, will enter the final year of her studies - albeit, with a confused vocabulary of British and American chemistry pronunciations.

Former Group Members

UConn: Chemistry University of Connecticut
55 North Eagleville Rd

Storrs, CT 06269-3060

Phone: 860-617-3518
Designed by Christopher Kelly
Last Updated: Apr. 2015