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 theChemical 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

Trevor Hamlin (Spring 2010-) received his  B.S. in Biochemistry (ACS certified) with departmental distinction from Albright College in 2010. He graduated cum laude and received the Benjamin H. Handorf Chemistry Prize along with the Eileen Walker Memorial Award, both of which are awarded to a Albright senior who exemplified high moral standards and excellence in teaching. During his time at Albright, he worked under the guidance of his mentor, Dr. Christian Hamann. Trevor's research centered on an investigation the stabilizing features of sesquiterpene macrocycles using various computational techniques. He was featured in "Fusion", a newsletter about the sciences at Albright. Trevor has traveled across the United States, presenting his research at various national meetings including: the 239th ACS Spring 2010 meeting in San Francisco, CA, the 41st National Organic Symposium in Boulder, CO, and the 23rd National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Lacrosse, WI. In the summers following his sophomore and junior years, Trevor gained practical experience by completing internships with Innospec Fuel Specialties. Trevor worked on the development of customized additives to enhance the quality of their customer fuel. Some of Trevor's activities outside the research laboratory at Albright included: playing on the Men's Varsity Golf Team, Pi Kappa Phi (Scholarship Chair), Class of 2010 Vice President, Interfraternity Council President and Treasurer as well as being a chemistry lab assistant and tutor. Continuing on to the chemistry graduate program at the University of Connecticut, Trevor was attracted to the NSMG because he felt that his computational background could provide a unique twist to the organic chemistry being done in the Leadbeater laboratory. When not in lab, Trevor enjoys fishing, hiking with his yellow lab Griffin, and off-roading in his Jeep. He is currently working towards his Ph. D. in physical chemistry and would one day like to work in either the fuel or pharmaceutical industries.


Christopher Kelly (Fall 2010-) received his  B.S. in Biochemistry  from Stonehill College in 2010 as Valedictorian of his class. He has been awarded several prestigious awards such as the Goldwater scholarship and the Office of Sponsored Programs award from the  University of Connecticut  as well as receiving honorable mention in the 2010 NSF Graduate Fellowship Program  competition. He spent a summer working at Columbia University under Dr. Dalibor Sames as part of the NSF REU program in 2009. Throughout his undergraduate career at Stonehill, he worked under his adviser and friend  Dr. Leon Tilley  exploring  the gamma-silyl effect as a synthetic tool for the construction of small strained ring systems as part of a larger investigation sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. After selecting UConn as his choice of graduate school, he soon became a fan of Professor Leadbeater's work  and his impressive collection of  laboratory equipment (and Starbuck's cups). Chris has a deep interest in all types of chemistry, but his world revolves around  organic chemistry. Chris's forte is mechanisms, methodology development and enjoys simply trying new reactions (hence the name of his blog, New Reactions). When not doing organic chemistry (which  not surprisingly isn't that often) he enjoys fishing, "emo-things"  (just think Hot Topic), owning in Starcraft and Halo, airsoft, and hanging out with his friends. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry and hopes one day to teach at a small undergraduate institution


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.


Michael Mercadante (Fall 2010-) joined the group in Fall 2010. He graduated from South Windsor High School, CT in 2006. In May 2010 he received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Stonehill College in MA. His undergraduate research investigated the gamma-silyl effect, oxidation of trifluoromethyl alcohols, and solvolysis of labeled trifluoromethyl sulfonates under the supervision of Professor Leon Tilley. At UConn, he is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in organic chemistry. His current research involves the development of flow chemistry as well as methodologies in microwave organic synthesis. When not in the lab or class, Michael enjoys playing baseball and basketball, as well as going skiing.

Current Group: UnderGaduate Students

Molly Blessing (Fall 2012-)  is a 2011 graduate of Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, CT. She started out studying Molecular and Cell Biology, inspired by working in Dr. Barbara Mellone’s lab as a participant in UConn’s “Mentor Connection” program in summer 2010. After taking general biology and chemistry courses freshman year she realized her true interest lay in chemistry and switched majors accordingly. As a former high school debater she remains fascinated by policy, and hopes to combine this with a passion for chemistry in any future directions. In her ever-elusive free time she enjoys playing the violin in the University Symphony Orchestra, being a member of the UConn Poultry Science Club, reading anything she can lay hands on, and travelling.

Robin Cywar (Spring 2013-) graduated from Danbury High School from 2010 in Danbury, Connecticut. She is pursuing her B.S. in Chemistry at UCONN and will graduate Spring 2014. She joined the group in Spring 2013 after taking Dr. Leadbeater’s Advanced Organic Laboratory course. While enthusiastic about all areas of chemistry, she is focusing on oxoammonium salt-mediated reactions and flow chemistry. Besides doing chemistry, Robin enjoys going on hikes, painting and volunteering at a local cat shelter called Kitty Angels of Connecticut. As one might guess, she really enjoys cats.

John Ovian (Spring 2014-) graduated from Daniel Hand High School in Madison, Connecticut in 2013 and is pursuing a B.S. in Chemistry at UConn. He met Dr. Leadbeater during the honors Organic Chemistry course and was encouraged to join the group. When not working in the lab, he enjoys singing as director of UConn’s a cappella group Extreme Measures, running, and snowboarding.

Rebecca Wiles   (Spring 2012-) graduated from Londonderry High School in 2011 and is pursuing her undergraduate degree in chemistry. Her research focuses on the use of oxoammonium cations in non-traditional oxidation reactions such as oxidative esterification as well as, more recently, organofluorine chemistry. As part of her University Scholar project she is currently working on methodologies for the utilization of novel fluorine sources, as chemical reagents. In previous years, she has spent her summers researching in the Leadbeater lab and also at Stonehill College under the direction of Professor Leon Tilley. During the summer of 2014 she is participating in a summer student research program at Pfizer. In her free time, she is an active member in the UConn Marching Band as a section leader for the fluteline. She also enjoys reading and PC gaming.

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. 2014