Carolyn E. Anderson


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

    Professional experience

    • Director of Calvin Core, Calvin University, 2021- present
    • Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Co-Chair, Calvin University, 2020- present
    • Professor of Chemistry, Calvin University, 2018- present
    • Associate Professor of Chemistry, Calvin University (College), 2013-2018
    • Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Calvin University (College), 2006-2013
    • Dreyfus Post-doctoral Fellow, Pomona College, 2004-2006


    Professor Anderson grew up in suburban Detroit and earned her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Michigan. After an extended internship at Pharmacia and Upjohn Corporation in Kalamazoo, MI, she pursued her graduate degree in synthetic organic chemistry at the University of California – Irvine. After completing a teaching post-doctoral fellowship at Pomona College, Professor Anderson joined the faculty of Calvin University (formally 'College') in 2006, where she has risen through the ranks, becoming full professor in 2018. When she is not developing new methods for the synthesis of unique nitrogen heterocycles, Professor Anderson like to read and play games with her husband and their three kids.


    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 University 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.”

    Academic interests

    • Synthesis of nitrogen heterocycles
    • Developing the next generation of scientists and future PUI faculty
    • Promoting Diversity and Inclusion of those from historically underrepresented group in STEM and across the academy

    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.


    Undergraduate student names appear in bold.

    Hartgerink, C. T.; Staples, R. J.; Anderson, C. E. "Crystal structure of tris(2-dicyclohexylphosphino-2’6’-dimethoxy-1,1’-biphenyl-kP)-m-oxoethenylidene-triangulo-trigold(I) bis(trifluoromethanesulfonyl)imide". Acta Cryst. 2021, E77, 537-541.

    Romero, E. O.; Reidy, C. P.; Bootsma, A. N.; PreFontaine, N. M.; Vryhof, N. W.; Wierenga, D. C.; Anderson, C. E. “Correction to Synthesis of N-Alkenyl 2-Pyridonyl Ethers via a Au(I)-Catalyzed Rearrangement of 2-Propargyloxypyridines”. J. Org. Chem. 2020, 85, 3990-3991.

    Rossler, M. D.; Hartgerink, C. T.; Zerull, E. E.; Boss, B. L.; Frndak, A. K.; Mason, M. M.; Nickerson, L. A.; Romero, E. O.; Van De Burg, J. E.; Staples, R. J.; Anderson, C. E. “Au(I)-Catalyzed Synthesis of Trisubstituted Indolizines from 2-Propargyloxypyridines and Methyl Ketones” Lett. 2019, 21, 5591–5595.

    Hromada, S.; Hilbrands, A.; Wolf, E. M.; Ross, J. L.; Heeg, T.; Roth, A.; Hollowell, M.; Anderson, C. E.; Benson, D. E. “Protein Oxidation Involved in Cys-Tyr Post-Translational Modification” J. Inorg. Biochem. 2017, 176, 168–174.

    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, 81, 9895–9902.

    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., 2005, 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



    • Organic Syntheses, Inc., Summer Research at an Undergraduate Institution ($8,000) - Summer 2019

    • National Science Foundation Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM), Building Foundations for Success in STEM (PI, $1,000,000, DUE 1833847) -  February 2019 - May 2025

    • National Science Foundation Research at Undergraduate Institutions, RUI: Synthesis of Highly Functionalized Heterocyclic Scaffolds (PI, $299,718, CHE 1665139) - May 2017- April 2022

    • Calvin College Award for Student-Faculty Research - April 2016

    • Calvin College Funded Sabbatical - January 2016 - August 2016

    • National Science Foundation Research at Undergraduate Institutions, RUI: Synthesis of Highly Functionalized N-Alkyl 2-Pyridones and Their Analogues (PI, $230,000, CHE 1266314) - May 2013 - April 2017

    • American Chemical Society Division of Organic Chemistry Travel Award - June 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2017

    • National Science Foundation Research at Undergraduate Institutions, RUI: Synthesis of N-Alkyl Pyridones: Mechanism, Methodology and Application to Organic Materials (PI, $170,000, CHE 0911264) - July 2009 - April 2013

    • Research Corporation for Science Advancement Cottrell College Science Award, Chromium Carbene-Accelerated Type II Intramolecular Diels-Alder Reactions as a Gateway to Strained Ring Libraries (PI, $36,418, #CC6840/6811) - May 2007– December 2010

    • American Chemical Society–Petroleum Research Fund Type G Grant, Chromium Carbene-Accelerated Type II Intramolecular Diels-Alder Reactions as a Gateway to Strained Ring Libraries (PI, $40,000, #45897-GB1) - May 2007– August 2009

    • Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Supplemental Award of the Scholar/Fellow Program for Undergraduate Institutions (PI, $10,000, #SL-06-01) - July 2006

    • Wig Teaching Innovation Grant, Pomona College - August 2005

    • Henry and Camille Dreyfus Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship - July 2004

    • Amgen Research Fellowship in Synthetic Organic Chemistry - April 2003

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