Carolyn E. Anderson


  • BSC, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1998.
  • PhD, University of California-Irvine, Organic Chemistry, 2003

Professional History

  • Associate Professor of Chemistry, Calvin College, 2013-present
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Calvin College, 2006-2013
  • Dreyfus Post-doctoral Fellow, Pomona College, 2004-2006


Even as a 10-year-old girl, Carolyn Anderson knew what she wanted to do with her life.

"When I was 10, my uncle got married to a woman, Heather, who was just starting her PhD in epidemiology,” said Anderson, a chemistry professor at Calvin College. “Heather sent me lots of pop-science, you know, ‘What is in the potato salad?’ Kind of epidemiological mysteries if you will … I thought that was the coolest stuff ever.”

Science intensive

Anderson took a full six years worth of science in high school. “What I found was that I was fine at biology, and I was fine at physics, but I didn’t find them particularly interesting,” said Anderson. “The way I was taught biology was a lot of memorization, and that doesn’t really work for me. And physics I had some trouble with: The ball gets to the bottom of the hill—and I was never sure why we were still talking about the ball.”

Thus, Anderson entered the University of Michigan as a chemistry major and never looked back. She began researching in the organic chemistry lab there in her sophomore year.

Graduate work

While attending U of M, Anderson joined a co-ed chemical sciences fraternity called Alpha Chi Sigma. In her senior year, Anderson took charge of the annual lectureship that the fraternity sponsors. Despite having a small budget, the fraternity managed to draw eminent speakers from the world of chemistry. Anderson invited 1995 Nobel laureate F. Sherwood (Sherry) Roland from the University of California-Irvine (UCI).

"By the time he left, he was convinced I should be doing graduate work at UCI,” said Anderson, “and so I ended up applying very, very early and only applied, in fact, to UCI, at his prompting.” Anderson calls her time at UCI, which is in Orange County, a great experience. It was there that she met her husband Chris. After Anderson finished up her PhD at UCI, she worked for two years at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.

Her road to Calvin College was a winding one.

"I was confident that I wanted to be in a primarily undergraduate institution,” Anderson said. “What I didn’t know when I interviewed at that point was what the details around the outside were going to look like.” Anderson didn’t know if she wanted to be at a large or small, public or private, or secular or Christian institution. “Those details were all sort of fuzzy, and so I interviewed very broadly,” she said. “I made a lot of trips and had a lot of phone interviews.”

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Research and scholarship

Professor Anderson’s research efforts involve developing facile methods for the synthesis and application of N-alkyl pyridones. N-Alkyl pyridones are interesting motifs due to their prevalence in natural products as well as their ability to serve as biological mimics in pharmaceutical targets. Projects in the group include: optimization of new organic and organometallic reactions, evaluation of reaction scope, and mechanistic studies.

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Undergraduate student names appear in bold.

Romero, E. O.; Reidy, C. P.; Bootsma, A. B.; PreFontaine, N. M.; Vryhof, N. W.; Wierenga, D. C.; Anderson, C. E. “Synthesis of N-Alkenyl 2-Pyridonyl Ethers via a Au(I)-Catalyzed Rearrangement of 2-Propargyloxypyridines”J. Org. Chem. 2016, ASAP 

Bootsma, A. B.; Anderson, C. E. “Computational and Experimental Evaluation of a-(N-2-Quinolonyl)ketones: A New Class of Nonbiaryl Atropisomers” Tetrahedron Lett. 2016, 57, 4834–4837.  

Tasker, S. Z.; Bosscher, M. A.; Shandro, C. A.; Lanni, E. L.; Ryu, K.-A.; Snapper, G. S.; Utter, J. M.; Ellsworth, B. A.; Anderson, C. E. “Preparation of N-Alkyl 2-Pyridones via a Lithium Iodide-Promoted O- to N-Alkyl Migration: Scope and Mechanism” J. Org. Chem. 2012, 77, 8220–8230. 

Romero, N. A.; Klepser, B. M.; Anderson, C. E. “Au(III)-Catalyzed Tandem Amination-Hydration of Alkynes: Synthesis of a-(N-2-Pyridonyl)ketones” Org. Lett. 2012, 14, 874–877. 

Tasker, S. Z.; Brandsen, B. M.; Ryu, K.-A.; Snapper, G. S.; Staples, R. J.; DeKock, R. L.; Anderson, C. E.“Synthesis of a New Class of b-Iodo N-Alkenyl Pyridones” Org. Lett. 2011, 13, 6224–6227.

Lanni, E.L., Bosscher, M.A., Ooms, B.D., Shandro, C.A., Ellsworth, B.A., Anderson, C.E. “Synthesis of Substituted N-Benzyl Pyridones via an O- to N-Alkyl Migration” J. Org. Chem. 73, 2008; 6425–6428. PDF

Anderson, C.E., Pickrell, A. J., Sperry, S. L., Vasquez, Jr., T. E., Custer, T. G., Fierman, M. B.; Lazar, D. C., Brown, Z.W., Iskenderian, W.S., Hickstein, D.D., O’Leary, D.J. “NMR Detection of Intramolecular OH/OH Hydrogen Bond Networks: An Approach Using Isotopic Perturbation and Hydrogen Bond Mediated OH•••OH J-Coupling” Heterocycles 72, 2007; 469–495. PDF

Anderson, C.E., Kirsch, S.F., Overman, L.E., Richards, C.J., Watson, M.P. “Preparation of the COP Catalysts: [(S)-COP-OAc]2, [(S)-COP-Cl]2, and (S)-COP-hfacac” Org. Syn. 84, 2007; 148-155. PDF

Anderson, C.E., Overman, L.E., Richards, C.J., Watson, M.P., White, N. “Preparation of (eta-5-(S)-2-(4-methylethyl)oxazolinyl)cyclopentadienyl)-(eta-4 -tetraphenylcyclobutadiene)cobalt” Org. Syn. 84, 2007;139-147. PDF

Loening, N.M., Anderson, C.E., Iskenderian, W.S., Anderson, C.D., Rychnovsky, S.D., Barfield, M., O’Leary, D.J. “Qualitative and Quantitative Measurements of Hydrogen Bond Mediated Scalar Couplings in Acyclic 1,3-Diols” Org. Lett. 8, 2006; 5321–5323. PDF

Anderson, C.E., Britt, D.K., Sangji, S., O'Leary, D.J.; Anderson, C.D., Rychnovsky, S.D. "Direct Assignment of the Relative Configuration in Acyclic 1,3-Diols by 1H NMR Spectroscopy" Org. Lett. 7, 2005; 5721–5723. PDF

Anderson, C.E., Overman, L.E., Watson, M.P. “Asymmetric Allylic Imidate Rearrangement to Allylic Amides: (S)-2,2,2-Trichloro- N-(1-propylallyl)acetamide” Org. Syn., Vol. 82; 134–139.

Anderson, C.E., Donde, Y., Douglas, C.J., Overman, L.E. “Catalytic Asymmetric Synthesis of Chiral Allylic Amines. Evaluation of Ferrocenyloxazoline Palladacyclic Catalysts and Imidate Motifs” J. Org. Chem. 70, 2005; 648–657. PDF

Prasad, R.S., Anderson, C.E., Richards, C.J., Overman, L.E. “Synthesis of tert -Leucine-Derived Cobalt Oxazoline Palladacycles. Reversal of Palladation Diastereoselectivity and Application to the Asymmetric Rearrangement of N -Aryl Trifluoroacetimidates.” Organometallics 24, 2005; 77–81. PDF

Anderson, C.E., Overman, L.E. “Catalytic Asymmetric Rearrangement of Allylic Trichloroacetimidates. A Practical Method for Preparing Allylic Amines and Congeners of High Enantiomeric Purity” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2003, 125, 12412–12413. PDF

Overman, L.E., Owen, C.E., Pavan, M.M., Richards, C.J. "Catalytic Asymmetric Rearrangement of Allylic N -Acyl Trifluoroacetimidates. A Useful Method for Transforming Prochiral Allylic Alcohols to Chiral Allylic Amines" Org. Lett. 5, 2003; 1809–1812. PDF

Overman, L.E., Owen, C.E., Zipp, G.G. "Diastereoselective Lithiation of (eta-6 -Arene) dicarbonyltriphenylphosphane Chromium(0) Oxazoline Complexes–Direct Preparation of Enantiopure Complexes Having Planar Chiral Fragments of Either Configuration" Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 41, 2002; 3884–3887. PDF

Herrinton, P.M., Owen, C.E., Gage, J.R. "Iodination and Metal Halogen Exchange of Aromatic Compounds: An Improved Preparation of a Key Oxazolidinone Antibiotic Intermediate" Org. Process Res. Dev. 5, 2001; 80–83. PDF


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