Chemistry Faculty: Kenneth Laali, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair of Chemistry


Office: Science & Engineering (Building 50), Room 3502

Lab: Science & Engineering (Building 50), Room 3634

Phone: (904) 620-3504



Bachelor of Science (Honors) - University of Tehran 1973

Ph.D. - University of Manchester 1977


Dr. Laali teaches Organic Chemistry at various levels including 4000 level electives focusing on structure and mechanism, problem solving, and organic spectroscopy.

Research Interests

Dr. Laali's research is focused on the following areas in organic chemistry:

  • Carbocations derived from Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Hetero-PAHs as models for biological electrophiles that can bind to DNA
  • Ionic Liquids as novel solvents and catalysts for Green Chemistry
  • Novel organic conducting materials using cyclophanes as building blocks (rigid pi-stacked organic structures)
  • Organophosphorus and Organofluorine chemistry
  • Molecular Recognition and Guest-Host (HG) chemistry, utilizing NMR and Mass Spectrometry as probe

Mechanistic and Synthetic Organic/Organometallic/Heteroatom Chemistry

Carbocations; arenium ions; onium ions; superacid chemistry and catalysis; organofluorine and organophosphorus chemistry; cyclophanes; annulenes; multinuclear and 2D-NMR; electrophilic aromatic substitution; synthetic methods and applications specially in superacid media; chemistry in ionic liquids; host-guest chemistry and molecular recognition in solution (NMR) and in the gas phase (mass spectrometry); cation/molecule cluster ions; computational chemistry (semi-empirical, ab initio, DFT, GIAO-NMR) as adjunct to experiment.


Research in the Laali laboratory focuses on multifaceted projects which combine (to various degrees) synthetic, structural/mechanistic, spectroscopic, and theoretical approaches to solving diverse problems in organic chemistry. Several projects are in biological chemistry and materials chemistry focus areas.

  1. Biological electrophiles in particular carbocations derived from Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): Emphasis is on direct studies of model persistent carbocations derived from various classes of PAHs with varied degrees of biological activity. These projects combine synthetic chemistry with superacid chemistry and modern NMR techniques. In most cases theory is applied as adjunct to experimental work. Work in this category is being extended to Hetero-PAHs (X = N, S) in projects that emphasize both mechanistic carcinogenesis (focusing on the electrophilic intermediates in particular carbocations) and the PAH-onium salts (for example azonium salts from aza-PAH) as anti-canceragents that intercalate into DNA.
  2. Novel organic conducting materials: Work under this umbrella brings together cyclophane chemistry, carbocation/onium ion chemistry and organofluorine chemistry to tailor projects in materials chemistry and self-assembly. Fluorinated cyclophanes, janusenes, and onium cations are the main building blocks for designing various assemblies. A major goal is to achieve extended charge delocalization within pi-stacks in rigid cyclophanes. A current joint program focuses on synthesis of cyclophane-based liquid crystals LCs and discotic LCs.
  3. "Green Chemistry": Utility of "Ionic Liquids" as environmentally friendly solvents and Catalysts in fundamentally important synthetic transformations of industrial importance. Published studies from this laboratory in this category emphasized aromatic nitration, halogenation, benzylation, acylation, and diazonium ion chemistry
  4. Organophosphorus Chemistry: Utilizing phosphaalkynes and phosphaalkene as building blocks for novel cations and molecules: Research in this category focuses on electrophilic and cycloaddition chemistry of kinetically stabilized phosphaalkynes and their cyclooligomers, such as tetraphosphacubane, metal-complexed phosphaalkenes, and on multinuclear NMR and structural studies of novel phosphonium ions derived from phosphaalkynes, tetraphosphacubanes and phosphirenes. Joint projects focusing on the gas phase synthesis and ion-molecule reactions of novel P/C cations are also available.
  5. Molecular Recognition and Guest-Host (HG) chemistry: Non-covalent forces in particular cation-pi and pi-pi interactions are exploited to create host-guest complexes. Electrospray Mass Spectrometry and NMR are used to detect the formation of cation-molecule cluster ions and to probe HG interactions. Current projects focus on PAH/metal ions, calixarenes/onium ions, crown-ethers/onium ions.

Research Group

Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Dr. Ganesh C. Nandi (2012-2013)
  • Dr. GGKS Narayana Kumar (2011-2012)
  • Dr. Aridoss Gopalakrishnan (2010-2011) 
  • Dr. Rajesh Kalkhambkar (2010-2011)

Undergraduate Research Students

  • Jonathan Jacoway (Spring and Summer 2012)
  • Ashley Compaan (recipient of AIC Outstanding Student Spring 2011 and NSF-REU for Fall 2011) (graduated)
  • Sarah Waters (recipient of the Moissan-SURF Award, Summer 2010) (graduated)
  • Jessica Crowe (graduated)
  • James Ponder (graduated)
  • Orlando Castro (graduated)

Publications and Citations

Please see Dr. Laali's extensive list of research publications and current citation history.

Undergraduate Research Opportunity

Interested students should contact Dr. Laali to discuss the prospects.