The Jamison Research Group


Frank Leibfarth

  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2013 - present
Postdoctoral Associate with Professor Timothy F. Jamison
Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara 2013
“Ketenes in Polymer Science: An Emerging Methodology for Applications in Materials Chemistry”
with Prof. Craig J. Hawker
B.Sc. University of South Dakota, 2003 (Chemistry and Physics)

Current Research:

    Automated chemical processes, such as DNA sequencing and nucleic acid and peptide synthesis, have transformed the fields of genetics and biotechnology. There is no analogous automated  process, however, to provide unimolecular, sequence-defined synthetic polymers to those interested in studying them. We aim to remove this limitation through the development of a semi-automated polymer synthesis machine that combines advances in continuous flow chemistry and polymer synthesis. 

    We have achieved the synthesis of sequence and architecturally defined, unimolecular macromolecules through a novel marriage of multi-step flow synthesis and iterative exponential growth, termed “Flow-IEG”. The Flow-IEG system performs three reactions and an in-line purification in 10 minutes, doubling the molecular weight of an oligomeric species in an uninterrupted reaction sequence with unprecedented speed and efficiency. Subsequent iterations through the Flow-IEG system enable an exponential increase in molecular weight, providing rapid access to unimolecular polymers. Introduction of monomers with alternate structures and/or branching units to the Flow-IEG system provides control over both polymer sequence and architecture. Employing this system, the synthesis of a unimolecular, sequence-defined macromolecule with a molecular weight of 4,023 g/mol has been achieved. The user-friendly nature, scalability, and modularity of Flow-IEG provide a general strategy for the semi-automated synthesis of sequence-defined, unimolecular macromolecules for a broad range of applications in biotechnology and materials science.

    For more information about Frank and his current and future research, please visit his website:

  • Helmy, S.; Oh, S.; Leibfarth, F. A.; Hawker, C. J.; Read de Alaniz, J.; Design and Synthesis of Donor–Acceptor Stenhouse Adducts: A Visible Light Photoswitch Derived from Furfural. J. Org. Chem. 2014, 79, 11316-11329.
  • Soh, S. S.; Lee, B. F.; Leibfarth, F. A.; Robb, M. R.; Lynd, N. A.; Eisenstein, M. E.; Hawker, C. J.; Soh, H. T. Synthetic aptamer-polymer hybrid constructs for programmed drug delivery into specific target cells. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 15010-15015.
  • Helmy, S.; Leibfarth, F. A.; Oh, S.; Poelma, J. E.; Hawker, C. J.; Read de Alaniz, J.; Photoswitching using visible light: A new class of organic photochromic molecules. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 8169-8172.
  • Groote, R.; Szyja, B. M.; Leibfarth, F. A.; Hawker, C. J.; Doltsinis, N. L.; Sijbesma, R. P. Macromolecules, 2014, 47, 1187-1192.
  • Leibfarth F. A.; Hawker, C. J. The Emerging Utility of Ketenes in Polymer Chemistry, Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry, 2013, 51, 3769-3782. (Highlight)

  • Leibfarth, F. A.; Mattson, K. M.; Fors, B. P.; Collins, H. A.; Hawker, C. J. External Regulation of Controlled Polymerizations, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52, 199-210. (Minireview)

  • Jung, H.; Leibfarth, F. A.; Woo, S.; Lee, S.; Kang, M.; Moon, B.; Hawker, C. J.; Bang, J. Efficient Surface Neutralization and Enhanced Surface Adhesion through Ketene-Mediated Crosslinking and Functionalization. Adv. Funct. Mat. 2012, 23, 1597-1602.

  • Burke, D. J.; Kawauchi, T.; Kade, M. J.; Leibfarth, F. A.; McDearmon, B.; Wolffs, M.; Kierstead, P. H.; Moon, B.; Hawker, C. J. Ketene-based Route to Rigid Cyclobutanediol Monomers for the Replacement of BPA in High Performance Polyesters. ACS Macro Letters 2012, 1, 1228-1232.

  • Leibfarth, F. A.; Moreno, N.; Hawker, A.; Shand, J. D. Transforming Polylactide into Value Added Materials. Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry 2012, 50, 4814-4822.

  • Lee, B.; Wolffs, M.; Delaney, K.; Sprafke, J.; Leibfarth, F. A.; Hawker, C. J.; Lynd, N. A. Reactivity Ratios and Mechanistic Insight for Anionic Ring-Opening Polymerization of Epoxides. Macromolecules 2012, 45, 3722-3731.

  • Leibfarth, F. A.; Wolffs, M.; Campos, L. M.; Delany, K.; Treat, N.; Kade, M. J.; Moon, B.; Hawker, C. J. Low Temperature Ketene Formation in Materials Chemistry through Molecular Engineering. Chem. Sci. 2012, 3, 766-771.

  • Spruell, J. M.; Wolffs, M.; Leibfarth, F. A.; Stahl, B. C.; Heo, J.; Connal, L. A.; Hu, J.; Hawker, C. J. Reactive, Multifunctional Polymer Films through Thermal Cross-linking of Orthogonal Click Groups. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 16698-16706.

  • Leibfarth, F. A.; Hawker, C. J. Mechanically Throwing a Reaction into Reverse. Science 2011, 333, 1582-1583. (Invited perspective on a manuscript in the same journal).

  • Leibfarth, F. A.; Vermaak, N. Hope for Graduate Student Childbirth Policies. Science 2011, 333, 1380.

  • Miyamura, Y.; Park, C.; Kinbara, K.; Leibfarth, F. A.; Hawker, C. J.; Aida, T. Controlling Volume Shrinkage in Soft Lithography through Heat-Induced Cross-Linking of Patterned Nanofibers. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 2840-2843.

  • Leibfarth, F. A.; Schneider, Y.; Lynd, N. A.; Schultz, A.; Moon, B.; Kramer, E. J.; Bazan, G. C.; Hawker, C. J. Ketene Functionalized Polyethylene: Control of Cross-Link Density and Material Properties. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 14706-14709.

  • Leibfarth, F. A.; Kang, M.; Ham, M.; Kim, J.; Campos, L. M.; Gupta, N.; Moon, B.; Hawker, C. J. A Facile Route to Ketene Functionalized Polymers for Broad Materials Applications. Nature Chem. 2010, 2, 207-212.

  • Nederberg, F.; Lohmeijer, B. G. G.; Leibfarth, F.; Pratt, R. C.; Choi, J.; Waymouth, R. M.; Hedrick, J. L. Organocatalytic Ring Opening Polymerization of Trimethylene Carbonate. Biomacromolecules 2007, 8, 153-160.

  • Lohmeijer, B. G. G.; Pratt, R. C.; Leibfarth, F.; Logan, J. W.; Long, D. A.; Dove, A. P.; Nederberg, F.; Choi, J.; Waymouth, R. M.; Hedrick, J. L. Guanidine and Amidine Organocatalysts for Ring-Opening Polymerization of Cyclic Esters, Macromolecules 2006, 39, 8574-8583.

  • Lohmeijer, B. G. G.; Dubois, G.; Leibfarth, F.; Pratt, R. C.; Nederberg, F.; Nelson, A.; Waymouth, R. M.; Wade, C.; Hedrick, J. L. Organocatalytic Living Ring-Opening Polymerization of Cyclic Carbosiloxanes. Org. Lett. 2006, 8, 4683-4686.

  • Guo, X; Myers, M; Xiao, S.; Lefenfeld, M.; Steiner, R.; Tulevski, G. S.; Tang, J.; Baumert, J.; Leibfarth, F.; Yardley, J. T.; Steigerwald, M. L.; Kim, P.; Nuckolls, C.; Chemeoresponsive Monolayer Transistors. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 2006, 103, 11452-11456.

    frankl at mit dot edu