James A. Ashenhurst


James Ashenhurst grew up in Glen Williams, Ontario, Canada and attended Queen’s University (B.Sc., M.Sc.) After spending a year traveling the Middle East, he began his Ph.D. studies at McGill University in the laboratory of Prof. James L. Gleason. During his time in the Gleason laboratory, he developed a route for the synthesis of the right-hand half of the phomoidride class of natural products, as well as novel methods for the synthesis of 5-substituted dienes and Lewis acid catalyzed [6+4] cycloadditions. From 2006 to 2008 he was an FQRNT postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Mohammad Movassaghi at MIT. During his time in the Movassaghi laboratory he achieved the total synthesis of the fungal metabolites (+)-WIN-64821 and (+)-11,11’-dideoxyverticillin A. The synthesis of the latter compound, achieved in collaboration with Justin Kim, represented the first total synthesis of the dimeric epidithiodiketopiperazine class of natural products, a challenge that had previously eluded chemists for nearly 40 years. The synthesis was highlighted in the newsmagazines Chemical and Engineering News and RSC Chemical World, as well as being the subject of an accompanying commentary in Science. From 2008-2010 James was a Lady Davis Fellow at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, where he worked as a medicinal chemist in the laboratory of Prof. Edit Tshuva.

In 2010 he founded the website “Master Organic Chemistry”(masterorganicchemistry.com) which is aimed at teaching the key concepts of organic chemistry to undergraduate students. He lives in Listowel, Ontario, where he teaches organic chemistry online.