STEM Shoutout: Dr. Christine Le

Dr. Christine Le joins UNM’s department of chemistry and chemical biology 

Dr. Christine Le will be joining the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology as a new assistant professor in fall 2019. 

Originally a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, Le brings her knowledge and interest in reaction and catalyst development to UNM’s campus where her research group, The Le Group at UNM, will advance the synthesis of biologically relevant small molecules using innovative organic chemistry tools. 

“My research interests involve understanding how catalysts can be designed to enable very challenging chemical transformations. By harnessing novel reactivity, my goal is to develop efficient, reliable and scalable methods to synthesize chemical structures typically encountered in pharmaceutical drugs. Much like the enzymes that regulate our daily bodily functions, catalysts speed up chemical reactions in the laboratory to enable chemical transformations that would not otherwise be possible,” Le said. 

During her graduate and postdoctoral studies, her catalyst-driven research has been funded by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada through multiple scholarship programs. These include the Julie Payette Research Scholarship, in which Le was a top 24 applicant. Le also was awarded the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship, and the NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship where she was recognized as a top-ranked female awardee.

“I like to think of myself as a “molecular architect” with the ability to design creative ways to break down and build up complex molecules in an efficient manner. The ability to discover new reactions every day is, in my opinion, the most exciting aspect of organic chemistry and the potential application of these molecules as life-saving therapeutics makes this research area even more rewarding,” Le said. 

Le’s  research contributions has also been recognized by Forbes and Scientific American in their Top 30 Under 30 List in Science and Chemistry. 

Le cites the global warming crisis and depletion of Earth’s natural resources as her main motivator to design greener chemical processes that reduce or eliminate the production of hazardous waste.

“Developing new catalytic reactions is important because catalysts can often be reused on the industrial scale, making manufacturing processes more efficient— saving time, money, and valuable resources,” Le said.