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Dr. John DiCesare

Dr. John DiCesare
Interim Department Chair & Professor,
Organic Chemistry


  • B. S. University of Central Florida (1987)
  • Ph.D. Georgia Institute of Technology (1992)

Dr. DiCesare received his B. S. degree from the University of Central Florida in December 1987 and his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in 1992. Dr. DiCesare completed a one-year postdoctoral research fellowship in Medicinal Chemistry at Research Triangle Institute in 1993. He then worked as a process development chemist at Advanced ChemTech in Louisville, KY until 1994 when he returned to Research Triangle Institute as a research associate to help establish a program in Combinatorial Chemistry. While in the Research Triangle area, he also was an adjunct assistant professor at North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC. Dr. DiCesare joined the Department of Chemistry at The University of Tulsa in August, 1995 and in July of 2009 he joined the Department of Chemistry at Georgia Southern University as Department Chair.

Dr. DiCesare’s research interests are in the area of synthetic organic chemistry and materials chemistry. These interests include combinatorial chemistry, asymmetric induction reactions, custom synthesis and the development of molecularly imprinted polymers for use as sensors and catalysts.

Condensed VITA


Dr. DiCesare’s research interests are in the area of Organic, Medicinal and Materials Chemistry. Current projects are described below:

Synthesis of Anti-Cancer Compounds

This project involves the synthesis of compounds consisting of four fused rings in a 6-7-6-6 ring configuration via the [3+2] cycloaddition of various 4-hydroxyisoquinolines and naphthoquinones. With in this project are synthetic methodology projects involving new ways to efficiently synthesize 4-hydroxyisoquinolines from benzaldehydes / benzo-ketones and amino acids. Additionally, we are investigating the thermal rearrangement of the 6-7-6-6 ring compounds to 6-6-6-6 ring systems.

Functionalization of Carbon Nanotubes for Incorporation into Polymer Composites

This project involves functionalzation of single-walled (SWNT) and multi-walled (MWNT) nanotubes with pendant norbornene rings. The norbornene rings will act as handles for the covalent incorporation of the nanotubes into a polymer composite using ROMP catalysts. The resulting polymers will be evaluated for enhanced physical and electronic properties through a collaboration with Dr. Mike Kessler at Iowa State University.

Development of Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (Artificial Enzymes)

This project was initiated as a project funded by the Army for the development of surfaces that are able to selectively bind and concentrate a specific chemical warfare agent through the formation of molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) to be used as a sensor. In this approach, a polymeric network is assembled around a template (nerve agent simulant). Upon removal of the template, a cavity with specific size, shape and chemical functionality for the chemical warfare agent remains. Sol-gel MIPs have been used to prepare templated materials that show affinity for organic dyes, phosphonates, inorganic ions and neurotransmitters. The sol-gel approach has a number of advantages in MIPs development such as; mild reaction conditions, flexible material processing, ease of incorporating organic functional groups into the inorganic matrix and they are generally optically transparent and photochemically and electrochemically stable. Additionally, sol-gel MIPs development is adaptable to combinatorial chemistry techniques.

In addition to using nerve agent simulants as the template, transition state (TS) analogs of the hydrolysis of nerve agents like VX can be used. Using a TS analog as a template would lead to a material that would act as an artificial enzyme for the destruction of nerve agents.

Development of TiO2/SiO2 Catalysts for Environmental Applications

This project was initiated as a project funded by NASA and involves developing a packed-bed catalytic system to be used in the final water polishing step to be used by NASA on proposed long-haul manned missions to Mars. The same technology has environmental terrestrial uses as well. Current research efforts are underway to develop the packed-bed technology for use to purify water using visible light and also to remove mercury for coal fired power plants.

Investigation of the Titanium (IV) Isopropoxide Reductive Amination Reaction

This project involves investigating the mechanism of the reductive amination reaction to determine the lifetime of the aminal tetrahedral intermediate. Conditions leading to a long lifetime could allow for an asymmetric version of the reductive amination reaction to be developed using chiral ligands bound to the titanium. Conditions leading to short lifetimes of the intermediate would benefit reactions with weakly nucleophilic amines or sterically hindered ketones.

Recently Completed Research Projects

Synthesis of Molecular Libraries from Imidazole-4,5-dicarboxylic Acid. (Funded by National Institutes of Health — Dr. Baures-PI)

This project involves the synthesis of a library of compounds designed off of the imidazole-4,5-dicarboxylic acid template. The resulting library will submitted to NIH for biological evaluation against a series of bio-assays. For more information on this project as it progresses see Dr. Baures web page.

Development of Catalysts to Neutralize Explosives (Funded by the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, MIPT)

This project involves the use of combinatorial techniques to help optimize the development of a mixed metal catalytic system in collaboration with Dr. Allen Apblett at Oklahoma State University.

Synthesis of Lysine Decarboxylase Inhibitors (Funded by NIH as a subcontract with Martin Levine, Univ. of OK-Health Science Center)

This project involves the synthesis of the compound difluoromethyllysine (DFML) in enantiomerically pure form and the synthesis of a dehydro-analog to be subjected to “tritium” hydrogenation to produce a radio-labeled version of DFML.

Courses Taught

  • CHEM 1003 Introductory Chemistry
  • CHEM 1004 Chemistry in Medicine
  • CHEM 1013 General Chemistry I
  • CHEM 3011 Organic Chemistry Lab I
  • CHEM 3021 Organic Chemistry Lab I
  • CHEM 3013 Organic Chemistry I
  • CHEM 3023 Organic Chemistry II
  • CHEM 4012L Qualitative Analysis Lab
  • CHEM 4012 Qualitative Analysis
  • CHEM 6213/4213 Medicinal Chemistry
  • CHEM 4873/6873 Organic Synthesis
  • CHEM 7113/5113 Advanced Organic Chemistry

Selected Publications

  • Xu, Z.; DiCesare, J. C.; Baures, P. W. “Parallel Synthesis of An Oligomeric Imidazole-4,5-dicarboxamide Library” J. Comb. Chem., 2010, 12, 248-254.
  • Katseres, N. S.; Reading, D. W.; Shayya, L.; DiCesare, J. C.; Purser, G. H. “Non-enzymatic hydrolysis of creatine ethyl ester” Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun., 2009, 386(2), 363-367.
  • Solinas, R.; DiCesare, J. C.; Baures, P. W. “Parallel synthesis of a library of symmetrically- and dissymmetrically-disubstituted imidazole-4,5-dicarboxamides bearing amino acid esters” Molecules, 2009, 14(1), 352-363.

Awards & Recognitions

  • Zelimir Schmidt Award for Research Excellence (2004)
  • Residential School on Medicinal Chemistry Fellowship (1997)
  • Monsanto / UCF Summer Research Fellowship (1987)

Last updated: 1/26/2013